Artist: Thea Gilmore
Date: June 9, 2008
Venue: Bloomsbury Theatre
Thea Gilmore in London: Accepting the Unexpected
Review by [Adam K.]
Nothing had prepared me for this gig, I have to say. Hot and weary and not in the best of moods, my default cynical state had already decided exactly what I was going to see. Nice to know that I can still be surprised. to say the least. I’ve never been so happy to be so confounded.
A low-key and simple set-up, an acoustic set consisting of Thea on guitar and vocals, Nigel Stonier on guitar, vocals, harmonica and piano, and a multi-talented woman called Fluff who managed cello, viola, guitar and backing vocals. I predicted something laid-back and….well, predictable, but had sorely underestimated Thea and my own capacity to love music.
She drew mostly from Liejacker, her new album (which I’m still loving and, if you haven’t got it yet….well, why not?) with a few songs from “Rules for Jokers”, one from “Avalanche” and one from “Harpo’s Ghost” and everything was great until Nigel took to the piano, Fluff took to the wings and Thea took to the mic for a spare, haunting “Icarus Wind”, at which point I thought….wow.
Just….wow. I almost wept.
From then on, the evening was more than just “great”. It became one of the all time greats, for me, a truly incredible experience. A version of “This Girl Is Taking Bets”, the number that — on the last tour — got the full electric treatment with Erin McKeown lending her guitar talents, this time round had only Nigel on acoustic guitar and Fluff laying down spiralling viola lines while Thea delivered her vocal with a manic energy and glee that made the air crackle. “Saviours and All” now contained a simple but devastatingly effective acapella vocal break, a new song called “God’s Got Nothing On You”, with just Thea on guitar and vocals, was utterly thrilling, and a traditional protest/folk song, the name of which I didn’t catch, was enthralling. Sometimes I broke open with laughter, sometimes I broke down with tears. Sometimes it was hard to tell which was which.
For “When I Get Back to Shore”, people were invited up on stage to sing along. Us being English, only about a dozen did, but apparently it beat the count in Glasgow, where only one person got up. The finale was a version of “The Lower Road” that ended with Nigel and Fluff walking offstage and leaving Thea to finish the song alone.
Throughout, as I’ve previously noted, Thea’s voice was a wondrous, sensuous, bluesy thing, richer than it’s ever been before and more beautiful than I’d ever imagined.
There was also some ecto banter: as we were in Bloomsbury, Nigel mentioned TS Eliot. “Would he like my songs?” Thea asked. “He’s probably more of a Nerina Pallot fan” replied Nigel, adding, “I have no idea why I said that” and breaking down in a fit of giggles. Later, when warning people that they would be asked up to join them onstage singing, Thea mentioned that there was someone there who would be definitely joining in. To which someone shouted out “It’s Nerina Pallot!”
I left stunned and enchanted. Not much more one can ask from a gig, really.
Amy’s Note: Thanks for the wonderful review, Adam. I wish I could have been there!