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Live Review: Thea Gilmore – 12th Oct 2023 – The Union Chapel, London, UK

3 min read

Thea Gilmore is set to release her new self-titled album on November 17th after a short delay of the original release of October 6th.  This was the first live concert to coincide with the original release of said new album, and sees Thea returning to release under her own name, after releasing previous album Afterlight as ‘Afterlight’.

The venue, The Union Chapel, is truly spectacular – an intimate, Victorian Gothic mid-sized setting, with great acoustics and a truly atmospheric space for live events.  I had been before (for Letters Live), and knew what to expect.  I did wonder how a gig in the predominantly sit-down venue would work out – it was, however, immediately obvious upon arrival that this was the perfect venue for the ‘more mature’ audience in attendance, with quite a few silver-haired foxes sat in the crowd!

Arriving at around 7:45pm, I was fortunate enough to enter as the support act began.  Liam Frost, with only a guitar and his voice, sang 7 folk songs, the pick of which was Hide and Seek.  The Lancastrian earned a mention with his powerful vocals (and, being from the North-West, I believe you have to look after your own!).

Photo by: Paul Groves

After a short interlude, Thea took to the stage.  Dressed all in black (leggings, jean shorts & a satin-type shirt) and stood alone, she started proceedings with just a guitar, a drum machine and a loop station, and gave us This Girl Is Taking Bets.  The band emerged soon afterwards and we were lead through an array of Thea’s songs, old and new, including (probably) her first love song, The Chance, which was greeted warmly by the crowd.  Audience participation was asked for during a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun, which was dedicated to the memory of Sarah Everard, who was brutally kidnapped, raped and murdered in 2021.  The crowd defiantly chanting the chorus “Hey now, hey now, What’s the matter with you? Girls just wanna have fun now”.

The highlight of the evening for me was She Speaks In Colours.  Gilmore described how it was written for the BBC Radio 2 creative 21st Century Folk initiative, how she was paired with Delyth Raffell from Blyth and how she lost her daughter Ellen, aged just 16, to anaphylaxis.  It was the most moving part of the night for me, and was well appreciated by the crowd.  Later in the set, a dedication to Jo Cox was made during The War – a moment of the set where the band left the stage for Thea to undertake some solo work (though it was remarked earlier how she enjoyed having a band), and how it seems that, more than ever, voices of reason are needed.

Thea was very relaxed on stage, and there were some fine moments of interaction with her audience throughout the night, including regaling the crowd with how she knew she’d made it when she got her first Facebook troll, and how her love of, and connection with, zombies led to her covering the “jolliest song about the apocalypse” Bad Moon Rising – and how she found out through a friend that the song was used in Zach Snyder’s ‘army of the dead’ – “I’m down with the kids (of the undead)” drew collective laughs from the pews.

Photo by: Paul Groves

After re-appearing for the encore, a final story around when Thea played at the same venue in 2011, but a male ticket holder refused to attend due to a likely chance of swearing “I’m not coming then – I don’t like women who swear”,  which provided the inspiration for the writing of final song, That’s Love, Motherfucker.

I left the Union Chapel as the crescendo of a raucous applause started to wane at the end of the night’s entertainment.  I don’t think I would have appreciated the gig in my early 20s nearly half as much as I did, filled with poignant, meaningful songs and fronted by a singer songwriter who was articulate in her praise of the venue, the audience and even her trolls!!  It was a gig for grown-up adults.

Setlist:
This Girl Is Taking Bets
Nice Normal Woman
Unravel Me
The Chance
Bones
Girls Just Want To Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper cover)
She Speaks In Colours
Ride On
Rise
The War
Bad Moon Rising
Mainstream
The Bright Service

Encore:
Razor Valentine
That’s Love

Photo by: Paul Groves

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