While and Matthews' 25th Anniversary year 2019
Where to begin to describe the incredible weekend we had at Shrewsbury festival celebrating our 25th Anniversary. Wow, wow, wow, we are still flying here at W&M towers, if a little shell-shocked from the barrage of joy, music, friendships, laughter, standing ovations and utter pride to be part of this beautiful family of folk.
Shrewsbury, you were everything and more than we hoped you would be, allowing us to to ‘take over’ and curate the Pengwern stage all day Sunday with some of our favourite acts and dear friends; Charlie Dore, Blair Dunlop, Eddi Reader, IOTA, Burden of Paradise and finishing with our amazing big band and special guests.
But first of all let’s start with how the weekend began for us, with Daphne’s Flight on the Bellstone Stage, 7.30 in the evening after an incredibly hot and steamy Saturday in Shrewsbury. We sang our hearts out and the joy that we share on stage was clearly infectious with the packed out marquee as we had a total standing ovation and could feel the love in waves and spades. We love our Daphne sisters and can’t wait to be out on the road with them all again in May 2020.
And so to Sunday.....
The day was MC’d by Leila Cooper. We asked for Leila not only because she is our pal, but also because she keeps a tight ship and keeps the day running without fuss or fanfare.
Charlie Dore, along with Julian Littman and Gareth Huw Davies gave us a beautiful opening set for the day. It was packed full of exquisite songs, singing, mirth, musicianship and was wrapped up in gentle humour and banter. We already know what an incredible talent this woman is and we’re thrilled to introduce her to so many new people.
Next up came Blair Dunlop. We’ve known Blair since, well before he was even a twinkle in his Mammy and Daddy’s eyes! It’s been incredible to watch him grow and blossom into a beautiful young man and a powerhouse singer/songwriter. We both felt like two very proud Aunties watching him perform and the audience loved him.
To finish the afternoon session off...well can we say about Eddi Reader that hasn’t already been said before. There aren’t superlatives enough, she just gets better and better and held a sweltering packed marquee in the palm of her hand. It was a particularly nice touch that she dedicated her concert to Melanie Harrold (then Joanna Carlin) who she said inspired her when she was a young performer just setting out. You can imagine how that made Mel feel. Classy touch Eddi, you’re a class act.
Before the evening concert got underway, we were surprised by a lovely introduction by Sandra Surtees who congratulated us on our 25th anniversary and presented us with a magnificent flower arrangement. Such a lovely touch from a truly lovely lady.
The evening concert started with one of favourite new acts, IOTA, old friends of ours, Sally Barker, Marion Fleetwood and Anna Ryder. They have combined their ridiculously large individual talents to create a superb trio that took the marquee by storm with their songs, stunning harmonies, hilarious chat and quirky delivery. Again, it was fantastic to bring them to so many new people and they did themselves and us proud.
Next up came one of our all-time favourite singers and bestest friends, Helen Watson with her sublime trio, Burden of Pardise with Dave Bowie Jr on double bass and Snake Davis on Saxes. Wow, wow, wow! For those that hadn’t seen them before, they blew them away with their singing, musicianship, chemistry, humour and arrangements of songs that covered northern soul, blues, country, folk, R&B....the list of genres just goes on and on and so does the feeling of utter joy they left behind to rapturous applause. What a delight.
And finally it was our turn to finish off what had been an already mountainous day of talent and joy. We love every single member of this band, old friends and new; Neil Marshall on drums who has been with us since the very beginning, Dave Bowie Jr on electric bass, standing in for our usual bass player, Neil Fairclough (who is on tour with Queen!) and not only was the hero of the day doing two big gigs back to back but also did a great job of learning all those tricky parts that Neil has created over the years. On lead guitar, the incredible Johnny Heyes, with us now for the last two albums and hopefully for evermore as he is sublime and the nicest fella you could wish to meet. We were lucky to get our old pal Belinda O’Hooley to play accordion in the band amidst all her incredible and well deserved recent success with Heidi with Gentleman Jack and their impending motherhood! She fit into the band like a dream. Last but by no means least, on backing vocals and percussion, Chris’s golden voiced daughter, Kellie While. Kellie has been on every album we have made and not only completes the big band sound but was also responsible for pulling the whole day together for us, contacting Shrewsbury in the first place, helping us put together the line-up then liaising with the artists and festival. We really couldn’t have done it without her.
We were joined by guests from the day, Christine Collister joined for ‘Are We Human’, CC sang on the single that we released in aid of Moas so it was perfect that she join us to perform it live. Then came Marion Fleetwood on fiddle and Snake Davis on Sax who both played blinders, the Daphne’s joined us for a very emotional and joyous Pride where the marquee was filled with rainbow flags and singing, It was such a special moment. We managed to cover songs from our very first album right up to our soon to be released new CD, Revolution Calls and the whole thing culminated in a party like atmosphere with people singing and dancing to rocking renditions of Digging Holes and Blind Faith, along with a stage full of singers from the day. If we were to pick the most perfect way to celebrate 25 years as a duo, this would have surpassed those wishes. It was a dream come true. Thank you to Sandra Surtees and all at Shrewsbury Festival, to our band all the guests who made this a day to remember always.
Please check out all the guests’ websites and go see them!
We rounded our whole Shrewsbury experience off on the Monday with a set from the trio, While, Matthews and While. A perfect way to spend an hour on bank holiday Monday in the glorious weather and in the shade of the Bellstone marquee. We love love singing with Kellie and it was a fitting end following the excitement of the day before concluding with some stripped down, three part harmonies.
Finally, if you don’t believe any of this and you weren’t lucky enough to be there, you can see all the concerts here! You’re welcome.
Latest album 'Revolution Calls' was released on 18th September.