Despite being clad in scaffolding and tarpaulin, Holy Trinity Church again showed what a great venue it is for live music last week, providing stunning acoustics for the Unthank sisters' harmonies. the gig was the latest in a series of great bookings by Howard smith, owner of people Records in Chapel Street, and formerly drummer with The Vapors.
Its was a busy day for Howard, who was also celebrating the birth of his son. The band took the chance to congratulate him, while joking that it meant their rider arrived late. Folk music, for the non-aficiaonlado, has a certain solemnity to it but the Unthanks, like many of their peers, have a natural charisma that lightens the air between the songs. The Guildford concert was something of a retrospective looking back over the band's 10 eclectic years recording. Although they were both suffering from light colds, Rachel and Becky Unthank have stunning voices and the show opened with a couple of a cappella numbers before gradually introducing the band. it remained a stripped-down sound, allowing the melodies of songs such as Nic Jones stunning, hypnotic Annachie Gordon to fill the room.
There were lighter moments too, such as the On A Monday Morning, "If I could just give someone else my liver on a Monday morning". Elsewhere in the first half were A Great Northern River from Songs From the Shipyards and a version Man is the Baby, originally by Anthony and the Johnsons. Before the interval was an extensive, but entertaining hard sell of the new 10 year anniversary box set, Memory Box which includes unreleased material, artwork and a cookbook. Judging by the queues at the merchandise stand, which the sisters manned themselves, the hard sell worked.
The second half began with another Shipyard song Black Trade, followed by the ultimate shipyard song, Shipbuilding. Written by Elvis Costello and Clive Langer, it remains one of the great pop songs and although the Unthanks' version was good, its easy familiarity distracted from the sparkle of the set. The only other complaint to be had about the show was how few songs were performed with this years brilliant Mount The Air album. The album's instrumental closer, Waiting, was magical and an abbreviated demonstration of the musical base of the title track was interesting, but it would have been nice to have had more. But there are minor gripes and the band seemed to enjoy the evening as much as the s
ell-out crowd. Lets hope they return soon.