LIVE REVIEW: Thea Gilmore, Matt Owens @ Sage Gateshead (26.05.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Rob Collins

On a cloudy bank holiday in May, a heartfelt, stripped-back night opens in Sage’s Hall Two with former Noah and the Whale’s bassist Matt Owens. With large black-rimmed spectacles, a spiky strawberry-blonde ’do and good-humoured jadedness, he’s a decaffeinated Chris Evans with a few more volts through his hair, and takes us very casually through his 30-minute set. It is pleasing acoustic storytelling, with enough funny, bluesy lyrics to make you double-take now and again. The standout is Piano at the Greyhound, which he sings with smoky-bar gravelly passion.    

Fresh off the release of her latest album Small World Turning – produced, marketed, toured, and into the Americana chart’s top 50 all without a record label – Thea Gilmore not only showcases a husky and crisply articulated singing voice, but also a serious talent for lyrics. This Girl is Taking Bets is a grotesquely enrapturing portrait of a ‘live fast’ kind of woman, painted with spine-straightening descriptions like “She’s the stains on the pages of the top-shelf magazine”, and the brilliant “This girl is the junkie in the children’s matinée”.

The folk singer-songwriter delivers a set studded with protest songs – some of them are furious calls to open our eyes to a plastic-laden, bullshit-ridden world and saddle up alongside her in battle (the rousingly sardonic Glory – the words to which she spits out, almost breathless – pounds forward like a one-woman cavalry, and the don’t-play-the-innocent The Revisionist is the cockier, dust-kicking dressage event to chew out Boris Johnson types, complemented with a beautifully sneering violin). Other songs, like Grandam Gold, and the haunting Cutteslowe Walls, about the rich/poor divide that doggedly fractures our society, are pained reminders that it’s the same old battle into which we’re charging.      

Standing in a t-shirt imprinted with ‘GET ANGRY AND TAKE ACTION’, this girl is the milkshake stain on the politician’s suit jacket.



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