17th NOVEMBER 2021 – Macintosh Church , Glasgow
The [Rennie] MacIntosh church – designed by one of Glasgow’s greatest style icons – was the backdrop to one of the most unlikely but on-trend chart-topping acts in recent times, Ward Thomas.
Their album, ‘Cartwheels’ was the first country album from a UK act to top the multi-genre UK album chart in 2016. Since then the twin sisters have gone from strength to strength. Their third album, ‘Restless Minds’ was the top-selling country album of 2019, and their 2021 tour follows last year’s album release, ‘Invitation’.
Catherine and Lizzie Ward Thomas follow a long line of female country/folk singers. In common with other acts from the McGarrigle sisters through to Shania Twain,The Dixie Chicks and Taylor Swift, their music may be rooted in country and bears the hallmark instruments of country music, but it is evolving and embraces other popular genres.
The Glasgow gig was certainly testimony to the duo’s popularity and growing following. The gig was sold out twice over, and about 250 people of various ages, were enraptured from the off by the sisters’ melodious, opening harmonies of ‘Dear Me’ and ‘No fooling Me’. Hit song, ‘Cartwheels’ sparked instant recognition in the MacIntosh audience, and its heart-breaking theme brought to mind the lyrics of the McGarrigle sisters’, ‘Heart Like a Wheel’ – “Some say the heart is just like a wheel/when you bend it/you can’t mend it.”
The dark mood shifted quickly however, as the Glasgow crowd bopped along to a series of more uplifting tunes and catchy choruses from their 2020 ‘Invitation’ album: ’Don’t be a Stranger’, ‘Sweet Time and ‘Wait Up’. Then it was back to the slower-paced, ‘Changing’ and ‘Not Just Me” from the ‘Restless Minds’ album. In keeping with the Country tradition, Ward Thomas are not afraid to sing about life’s darker issues from mental health and the dangers of social media to abuse, but it’s certainly not all doom and gloom and their music, like the twins, is growing and changing.
‘Hold Space’ quietly held the audience before the steady rhythms of ‘Take That Train’ told of a passenger sharing her life story with a fellow traveller on the journey. “The tragedy she shared with me is now my opportunity/To take a view and make the wrong things right”. The keyboards took over with ‘I believe in you’, another beautifully sung ballad. ‘Guilty Flowers’ was a big hit with the crowd and one of Ward Thomas’ most popular songs from the ‘Cartwheels’ album.
Following on, came one of the duo’s most direct and bare songs, ‘No Filter’, while in ‘One More Goodbye’ the sisters’ voices intertwined in mournful longing. The girls wound up the official end of the gig with the appropriately chosen, ‘Carry you home’. Once again their Glasgow ‘church’ were up on their feet dancing and singing along in support:
The duo came back on for an encore, bringing their unique style to a cover of ‘[Meet me in] The Middle’ by Zedd. Maren Morris and Grey. They exited with ‘Safe’, perhaps one of their most honest and deep songs, touching on themes of abuse. Whether light or dark or a blend of both, the one constant with this talented duo is their beautiful, melodious harmonies that seem to fit perfectly alongside each other, perhaps only as twins can.
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