Review: Ward Thomas, York Barbican, February 25

WITH an appeal that spans the generations, the Hampshire twins remain on track for wider success.

The sell-out Barbican crowd found them in transition. This very professional show leaned heavily on songs from their latest album, Restless Minds. A bold move perhaps, as the new record is rather a mixed bag. The shift away from their country roots finds them trying too hard to emulate Taylor Swift’s pop sound.

In the flesh, you could forgive their band their (thankfully brief) soft rock indulgences, thanks to the sisters’ consistently strong vocals and gracious stage presence. What the new material lacked in originality, it made up for with strong positive messages about keeping your head in this insta-online-perfect age. No Filter and Little Sad Girl made the case best. Elsewhere the strength of Not Easy got lost in one big chorus too many.

As songwriters, Lizzie and Catherine Ward Thomas have always had something to say. Cartwheels remains their signature tune; played here as an acoustic duo. It took their time-honoured influences and said something new. #

Support act Wandering Hearts, by contrast, are still paying their dues. The hotly tipped London band looked and sounded rather like Linda Ronstadt’s Stone Poneys in the Seventies and were a tough act to follow. Their honeyed three-part harmonies and fantastic double bass rumble appealed, but by the closing Devil we’d got the point.

The audience reaction was noticeably louder for the Ward Thomas songs that retained the sound that made them so popular, like the tuneful One Goodbye or the Dolly Parton-esque Restless Minds. Older numbers were more fun, with A Town Call Ugley not too far away from Nutbush City Limits. The encore was rather anti-climactic, like the new record shooting for, but not quite hitting the heights, although Carry You Home had the crowd on their feet.

Paul Rhodes