Saturday, 9 April 2011

Thea Gilmore

06-04-11_2121 Thanks to the sharp eyes and organisational efforts of JA, I was out Wednesday night to catch the rock/folk musician Thea Gilmore in the Southampton venue The Brook. I only got acquainted with her music courtesy of a birthday present last year (from JA and AM), and that was a very enjoyably aberrant Christmas album. Given that it's now April, songs from this album were unlikely to make the night's set list, so did the rest of her work live up to this?

06-04-11_2142 In a word: easily. The night was a great mix of rock/folk drawn from (as I gathered) her various albums, along with the occasional eclectic cover version. I'm usually a little twitchy about folk, because of its worthy, sandal-wearing roots, but Gilmore's nothing like a purist on this score, and any fears I had were quickly dispelled (there was even a gag at folk's expense when guitar-tuning was described as "good enough for folk"). As for the band, it was a four (sometimes just two) person affair, with Gilmore, her husband-collaborator Nigel Stonier, and two additional tour musicians, Tracey Browne and someone on drums whose name I've forgotten (sorry). That said, it certainly felt more like a long-established troupe of players familiar with one another (though I'm obviously no music pro).

06-04-11_2146 Of Gilmore's own material, the main things I'd say was that it was diverse, polished and really made the most of her best asset: her voice. With this, she's got charm, control and range, and is perfectly capable of joyously belting out one number only to follow up with a more delicate song from the opposite end of the spectrum. As such, we got slow ballads, upbeat raunchier numbers and tracks such as Icarus Wind, which were more sparing musically, but really let Gilmore's singing shine. And she finished the evening with a solo, music-less lament that used only her voice. Re: the cover versions, we got a bit of Dylan, Dolly Parton (the Archers-pertinent Jolene) and, bizarrely but brilliantly, Guns N'Roses (via a great folk version of Sweet Child o' Mine). In introducing the first of these, Gilmore revealed that: (a) for her next project, she has re-recorded Dylan's album John Wesley Harding in celebration of the singer's (Dylan's) 70th birthday; and (b) she can do a mean Bob Dylan impersonation!

06-04-11_2208 Overall, it was a really enjoyable gig. Made all the more so by Gilmore's humourous engagement with the audience - she's no shrinking violet or tortured, introverted artist. I'll definitely be looking out for her again in the future (or, more likely, JA will, and he'll tell me about her).

I should add that the support act, Jo Long (+ friend), half of the local band The Pure Drop, were a good match for Gilmore. While narrower in terms of the range of material they performed, presumably in part because they had a smaller slot, they held up well in comparison. Their set was perhaps a little too heavy on more folky ballads for my taste, but I was still impressed. And somewhat surprised too, since the last time that I saw Jo (not that I know her at all), she was pulling pints in NOC's local, The Platform. I haven't seen her there for a while, but she's clearly been making good use of her time by the sounds of things.

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