Sunday, 1 March 2015

Live in 2015: The Unthanks - live at St David's Hall, Cardiff on Thursday 27th February 2015

The Unthanks have just released their latest album - Mount The Air. And this is the tour in support of that release.
I am totally confident that Mount The Air will be in my Albums Of 2015 by the year's end. The chance to hear the tracks live was just unmissable. So it was with much excitement on my part that I arrived at St David's Hall.

It was an extra special performance as we had Reavennan Husbandes as support. In an odd move, Raevennan was introduced by Adrian from The Unthanks and played just two songs from her debut EP, Box Of Innocence. (I've had the EP from when it was released in November and a lovely thing it is too.)

But, she was to come back later and play two more songs after the break. She really is a special talent and listening to the crowd at the break, others in the audience had the same opinion as me. I haven't heard an audience want more from a support artist for quite some time.

Nothing can really prepare you for The Unthanks new album. With two tracks over 10 minutes long, it's a long way from their traditional folk roots - but not completely. I feel their career trajectory has been building up to this record.

The live set up has Rachel, Becky & Adrian NcNally joined by seven more musicians playing Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, Brass & percussion. They have produced a lush, hypnotic album and this live band reproduce it beautifully.

The set starts with a couple of the more gentler songs from the new album, with Hawthorn and Madam. The sound is just breathtaking and St David's Hall is just the place to experience it. With just piano and trumpet (or it could be flugelhorn) accompaniment, the sisters' voices were as clear as a bell.

Following this subtle opening, the band then returned to an older song with Felton Lonnin. Adrian in particular seems at home behind a Steinway grand piano and the more intricate sections of the music are enhanced by his piano work.

Over the last few albums, The Unthanks have expolred other musical genres such as their album, Diversions 2, with the Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band and working with these other musicians must certainly have had an influence on their new music. 

Two new songs, Died For Love & Last Lullaby highlight the amazing vocals that Rachel & Becky have used to create the wonderful harmonies on the new album. They're just spine tingling.

Throughout the show, the Sisters & Adrian had a bit of banter between the audience as they talked about how the songs had come about.

One of the major highlights of the new album is the opening & title track Mount The Air. 10+ minutes of music to lose yourself in. It's almost Prog, it's almost Jazz. Pieces remind me of Miles Davis, sometimes Talk Talk at their most elegiac. Totally mesmerising. But it is a musical tour-de-force and shows just how far The Unthanks have come from their pure folk beginnings.

This is the single version of Mount The Air which gives just a taste.

Then came the break.

Following two more songs by Raevenna Husbandes the band came on again and gave us the traditional Gan To The Kye from their album Last.

But the new album is what tonight is really all about and next up came two more songs from Mount The Air, For Dad & Magpie

The next part of the show focused on the album that The Unthanks released which covered songs by Robert Wyatt & Antony and The Johnsons.

First up was Wyatt's Out Of The Blue followed by Antony's Sprialling.

We are then given an astonishing version of the King Crimson track Starless, which features on the Unthanks album Last. They sure know how to choose a song to cover. So perhaps it's not so surprising that Mount The Air has shades of Prog after all.

Adrian talked about the other highlight (for me) of Mount The Air, another 10 minute song called Foundling and how the band thought they couldn't play two 10 minute tracks in one show - I'd have loved to have heard it live. Maybe next time.

The band came on for an encore and played Lucky Gilchrist and the title track from Last.

It was such a moving concert in so many ways. The music obviously, the scope of sound and the dynamics of the music but never losing that human touch. Mount The Air has taken The Unthanks to another level - but that's another blog post later in the year. For now, I am just happy to have witnessed something very special.

Twitter - @TheUnthanks 


No comments:

Post a Comment