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Country Evening At the Palace Theatre with Ward Thomas
The Grand Ole Opry came to the Palace Theatre last night with Ward Thomas headlining and guest appearances from The Country Affair and Dan Owen.
Read our review but better still go see them yourself for a truly entertaining country rock evening.
The warmup act and a singer-songwriter, Dan has a powerful voice which is very evident as he sings his material with a lot of intensity. He sings with a lot of control too: he has a clear falsetto and can drop his voice into something approaching spoken word. In fact, there’s a lot he can do and the material is built from different picking styles, some rudimentary percussion and spirited harmonica playing. He would probably make a good rock vocalist. There’s a lot he can do, watch out Ed Sheeran.
The County Affair
A four-piece band with Tony Regan in charge of vocals and accordion, and Kevin Brennan playing electric guitar and singing. This was the most ‘country’ act of the night so the material was largely narrative driven with lots of stories and talk about heavy drinking, leaving home and some type of transport wreck (in this case a car crash).
Compared with the other two acts of the evening, Tony Brennan gives a cleaner, simpler vocal performance than, say, Ward Thomas who are very much radio ready. This isn’t a bad thing by any stretch as you get a sense of the singer’s character; something you lose when the singer has a very polished delivery. The tone of his voice makes me think of John Darnielle from the Mountain Goats, but that might just be me.
At points Tony could have been bolder with his performance. I don’t think that he should be shouting or doing some sort of acrobatics but, when speaking as a character, he should commit to playing that character and not do things by halves.
The songs are well written and I enjoyed listening to the stories which have some nice details. There are some missteps with the song-writing, especially in some of the rhyme schemes which occasionally set up a rhyme and not deliver.
The single ‘Go Tell Your Father’ is a fine track and seemed like a good opportunity to go to town with and extended accordion or piano solo. The track still has some momentum in it before the band cut it off with a minor chord, bringing it to a dead stop in a jarring way. Really, I would like any reason to hear more accordion which was a highlight of the act.
A polished country band with a touch of Irish mischief one to watch out for.
The main act and another very strong vocal performance from Lizzy and Catherine Ward-Thomas. It feels strange when you hear powerful singers in real life; when you hear them on tv or the radio it feels like someone is playing a trick on you and that they don’t really sound like that.
The close harmony between the sisters is, perhaps, too close, and while, dazzling at first, I felt it lacked the variation needed to keep the whole set interesting. With such strong singers it was a little bit of a shame not to hear something more adventurous in terms of harmony. The two stay more or less in the same key and, while there was some nice dissonances in the opening numbers, the gig was flagging by the end.
It would have been nice to hear some more from the band! The guitarist and the keyboardist had one solo each towards the end and I could occasionally pick out some nice keyboard riffs in other songs. These brief flashes shook things up nicely; I also liked the opening chord progression on Someday which was played on the keyboard.
This might sound silly but I was disappointed with how little banjo playing there was. The instrument was on stage for all three acts but was only played once during the Ward Thomas set and, when it was played, it was lost behind the other elements. I really like the flavour that banjo picking brings to country acts so it felt like a bit of a tease with no payoff.
A professional singing duo: the next step Hollywood.
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