Protest singer Thea Gilmore is folk for the 21st Century. Forget rekindled traditional numbers filled with tales of love and life, Thea prefers full-feist modern songs abounding in lyrical punches. Nevertheless, in the midst of recording her next album, it’s clear her edges are beginning to round. Mid set she teases that the next offering will be ‘Thea Gilmore: The love album’ and if the new songs played to an exclusive Andover audience are anything to go by, it might not be that much of a joke.
More stripped back in feel, the mellowed out ponderings of ‘how the love gets in’ fill a duet with husband Nigel Stonier and the other showcased songs have a similar vain. The set list seems to reflect this change in direction, Icarus Wind and Old Soul taking prominece at the start of the night and even her jokey protest song Oh Come On! contains up tempo melodic refrains.
‘This is folk music, there’s nothing complicated about it’, she exclaims at the start of the song, her humour still firmly intact. With this in mind the audience dive straight in, indulging her desire for them to shout the chorus. This is followed later by a rendition of P!nk’s Get The Party Started, barbershop quartet style, with backing vocals from Nigel and Fluff. It seems at this point that Thea has wandered off track, from the opening Saviours And All, the set seeming to lack in Thea’s trademark angst.
Her presence and voice seemed mellowed too from what we’d expect. Her angelic vocals fill the venue and whilst her notes are faultless and her harmonies astute, they seem distant in weight. It’s only her rendition of You & Frank Sinatra, a track penned by Nigel, that seems to highlight the power of her voice. Though at other times in the night she seems uncomfortable without her guitar, here she lets rip and creates the undoubted highlight of the night.
It’s the second half of the set which gives hope that her cynicism hasn’t totally waned and she digresses back to lyrics more reminiscent of The Things We Never Said, in another of her new songs, before offering the audience the more protest ridden, Juliette (Keep That In Mind) and This Girl Is Taking Bets. This vibe seems to climax towards the end, Thea’s tribute to Joan Baez, Are You Ready? quickly followed by Mainstream acting as the political markers of the night.
In a set that culminates into a diverse affair Thea pulls out a show that highlights veracity and breadth, marking her as more than just a one trick pony and denying prior criticism that protest songs are old. She is in essence the honey in your porridge and the lemon in your tea. Transforming a genre that is often brandished by youngsters as dull into a palette of styles, offering just enough love to retain virtue and just enough protest to mark her as shrewd.