The Civil Wars brought charm, class and chemistry to Manchester’s Academy on Friday for a performance that was simply stunning.
Following their success at this year’s Grammys, double-act The Civil Wars broke free of support slots, with Adele, to deliver their endearing sound as headliners to a sold-out crowd.
One look across the audience is enough to render The Civil Wars’ fan-base as, well, civil. A flurry of balding crowns and greying bobs presents a unique personality for the Academy 2 as the night centres on appreciation of the duo’s talent, as opposed to the Academy 1’s congregation who were heading full-swing into the weekend with boisterous behaviour.
Joy Williams and John Paul White sparked a connection after meeting in America’s country and folk epicentre: Nashville, Tennessee. With such an irrefutable ingredient included in the mix, the pair were destined for success on the back of their exceptional debut four-song EP Poison & Wine. And in 2011, success was everywhere for The Civil Wars.
Last month, the pair won two Grammys for Best Folk Album and Best Country Duo/Group Performance and this evening both awards are on show in the form of an outstanding show.
John Paul and Joy are elegantly dressed, choosing a tuxedo and black dress combination and immediately dig in to Barton Hollow, the band’s award-winning debut album.
It’s four songs in before the twosome address Manchester, complimenting the city and evoking an amiable affair. The crowd replicate Joy’s affection for Manchester and her soothing vocals caress the masses in ‘Falling’, ‘Forget Me Not’ and ‘Birds of a Feather’.
Joy’s fervour is outstanding as only John Paul’s acoustic guitaring provides any depth. But depth can only be a distraction when vocals are of this standard. Joy’s flair is a tribute to Adele’s one-piano-and-a-microphone performance on Brits 2011. Perhaps touring with this year’s six-time Grammy winner has something to do with the evening’s atmosphere, as the two find themselves playing to fascinated fans.
There is silence between ‘My Father’s Father’ and ‘Barton Hollow’ (the pair’s anthemic crowd-pleaser) and rapturous applause in-between. The listeners are drawn in with John Paul’s gruff, Southern American roots delivering on countless levels. His exploration of the acoustic guitar is exquisite, his vocal range is first-rate and his personality is alluring.
With the two standing side-by-side, and each bringing unique elements to stage, the country folk singers go together like birds of a feather. Their relationship oozes a shared devotion to the music they love and it certainly comes across live.