Little Big Town, Shepherd's Bush Empire

Almost two years after their debut UK performance as part of 2013's Country To Country Festival Little Big Town took the stage at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire last night to launch their short UK tour.

UK country duo The Shires are opening all three of Little Big Town's UK tour dates and they took the stage at 8pm. Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes had a stripped back feel to their set with just their guitarist joining them for a few tracks. They are clearly very comfortable on the stage and with each other and, whilst it was only minimal, they were happy to interact with the audience. 
The duo included two covers in their set, Young Hearts and Islands In The Stream, both of which were very impressive. They stayed true to the original version of Islands In The Stream however they slowed down Young Hearts to make the track a soft ballad which worked really well. The Shires also travelled through a selection of their original songs such as Nashville Grey Skies, Tonight and State Lines, all of which were very strong. I would definitely say they were stronger with the softer tracks out of their set, it really meant that their vocals could shine. Their debut album Brave could go into the top ten all genre charts on pre-orders alone and I would recommend everybody orders it!

The Shires left the stage after a half hour set and then Little Big Town took the stage at 9pm. With it's long intro (of around one minute thirty) the set opened with Turn The Lights On which meant that the band could get the tempo up and the audience even more excited and Little Big Town's entrance was greeted to rapturous applause. From the first note of Turn The Lights On to the last note of the encore track Boondocks Little Big Town were tight and did not disappoint.

The first real stand out moment of Little Big Town's set was the a cappella opening to Front Porch Thing. The quartet were on point and the musicians entered smoothly for the rockier main production.
It was really nice to see that older tracks were scattered throughout the set list, with Bring It On Home, I'm With The Band, Little White Church and Boondocks all included. I'm With The Band has long been a favourite track of mine and it did not disappoint live with it's alternation between a cappella moments and a soft backing track. 

Girl Crush is a brilliant track to hear performed live and was incredibly popular with the audience, as you could tell from the huge applause after the track. The clever lyrics, simple production and focus on Karen's vocals (the other three members of the band stepped back) made it a really strong moment and Karen's powerful yet heartfelt performance really sold the track. 

The band's performance of Live Forever was an absolutely incredible moment in my opinion. The track is brilliant on the studio recording on Pain Killer but is just as good (I'd go as far as to say it's better!) live. The quartet's harmonies are exquisite and the production was really strong, truly just acting as an addition to the vocals rather than overpowering. The production of the track is very clever, the addition of the soft drum beat at the start of the second chorus gives the track a sense of strength whilst still retaining vulnerability.

There were also more upbeat tracks in the set list. Pain Killer, for instance, was great. The reggae styling of the track worked really well and you could see a lot of the audience members dancing along. Stay All Night was one of the rockiest numbers in the set (one of the others was the only non original track in the set, a cover of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain) and one of the strongest in my opinion. The overall sound is a slight departure from previously released older tracks and Jimi's powerful vocal really adds to the track. The only negative thing I would say is that the drum level felt a little too loud at points through some of the rockier tracks.

Little Big Town set list....
1) Turn The Lights On
2) Day Drinking
3) Quit Breaking Up With Me
4) Front Porch Thing
5) On Fire Tonight
6) Bring It On Home
7) Tumble And Fall
8) I'm With The Band
9) Pain Killer
10) Girl Crush
11) Faster Gun
12) Leaving In Your Eyes
13) Little White Church
14) Sober
15) Live Forever
16) Things You Don't Think About
17) The Chain
18) Stay All Night
19) Save Your Sin
20) Tornado
21) Pontoon
22) Boondocks (ENCORE)

It really was an amazing show last night, The Shires sounded great and all four of Little Big Town really shone (their band should also be applauded - Evan Weatherford on guitar, Hubert Payne on drums, John Thomasson on bass). You could see from their faces that they were really surprised with the positive response they received and it was really interesting to hear them say they wanted to come back sooner but weren't sure who would come to see them. The audience sang along through most of the songs (particularly embracing Boondocks as the encore track) and the standing ovation from the audience at the end of the show was a well deserved moment and you could clearly see the emotion from the band. It was great to see, I certainly can't remember the last standing ovation a country act received over here!

The quartet play Manchester today and Glasgow tomorrow and I can assure anyone who is going to either venue that you are in for a great show! I just hope Little Big Town come back soon!

Credit to Dragon Photography for the photos from the gig