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  • Writer's pictureCHRIS FARLIE

C2C 2023: Ward Thomas The Saloon All Bar One / Indigo

With a new album and forthcoming tour to plug, it was a much more visible Ward Thomas at this years C2C, with a couple of shows one intimate and one grander to preview what will be coming in the upcoming weeks. They were also having signing sessions in the record tent and genuinely seemed upbeat and enthusiastic about the festival.

There is no denying their popularity at C2C - for the first show at All Bar One, even though the venue was full and not allowing additional folk in, there was a queue of what looked to be well over a hundred. snaking its way around the O2 of expectant fans.

The All Bar One show was very much a stripped back affair, with Catherine and Lizzie playing alongside their regular guitarist Billy, airing a number of songs pretty much as they were originally created. Eschewing using stools both opt to stand, Catherine visibly preganant in a suitably loose tshirt and jacket with Lizzie in a suit, they immediately launch into a couple of tracks from the new album, "Music In The Madness" and "Love Does".

Naturally there was an outing for "Cartwheels" before more from the album in "Next To You" which came with a hint old times as Lizzie incorrectly introduced it as "Justice & Mercy" before releasing an expletive!

"Justice & Mercy" did eventually follow with the additional fact that they like crime dramas and wanted to write a song about fictional criminal. It required audience humming which does have the unfortunate side effect of then making it difficult to hear! With the set closing out with "Carry You Home" it was a nice way to kick off their festival. This was just a prelude though to the much larger show the following day at the Indigo.

The Indigo show was very much a reinvigorated Ward Thomas - with a reshaped band line up and a move away from multiple keyboard sounds to just having in essence a straight up piano - it all made for a much punchier, clearer sound. With this being the first time these songs were being played with a full touring band there was definitely an infectionus excitement that was projected off from the stage.

From the opening song "Music In The Madness" the new sound was evident, the piano very prominent and the band playing with an urgency that comes with playing mew material.

The recent much more overtly Americana sounding single "Justice and Mercy" came again with the request for the audience to provide suitable humming, Lizzie opened the vocals and was to be found prowling the stage, Catherine understandably more static and with the occasional moments where they would face each other to sing, it was very much like old times. The song itself could not have been better suited for the occasion.

Older tunes had new life breathed into them "Guilty Flowers" now had neat little piano lines running through it and there were smiles all round as it finished as though everyone on and off stge appreciated how good it sounded.

In recent performances, particularly at a guest slot at Bush Hall at the Song Suffragettes show, "Cartwheels" has sounded a bit lifeless - more Carthorse than "Carthwheels", possibly not helped by playing when sitting down. Today it was back to its sparkling best - with Catherine even adding a little bit stagecraft, leaving a long pause just before the final chorus letting every milli decibel of guitar sound disappear in to the ether, before flashing a smile and heading into the final chorus - that is how to breathe life back into a song.

A return to the new album saw the delicate sounds of the piano ballad "Loved By You" once again showing the duos talents at their best. The full band returned for the acoustic sound of "Love Does"

The promise of the new material was best epitomised by "Next To You", with a big piano intro and then heavily riffing guitar, which really got the momentum building. It saw both girls move to hand holding their microphones, a sizzling guitar solo and Lizzie hitting the big notes - it was once again a case of smiles all round on completion.

Closing out with "Carry Me Home" with its familiar audience participation - there was once again a marvellous clarity of sound which we hope follows on into the upcoming UK tour.

A most definte and undeniable return to form for Ward Thomas




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