Union Chapel, Islington
This was Thea Gilmore’s only band gig of the year and, she announced on social media and from the stage, her first since 2017. She was wrong about that. I saw her with a band in the same venue in 2019 on the Small World Turning tour. As we subsequently discovered that was the ‘divorce tour’. She and ex-husband Nigel Stonier shared a stage, although Thea had called time on a relationship which she had come to realise was abusive. It’s no wonder she has managed to let that one pass from memory.
She has played some completely solo gigs since, but it was still a brave choice to open the show by taking to the stage alone to perform This Girl is Taking Bets, possibly her best known song, in a radical new arrangement of loops and samples. The lyrics wrapped around the newer songs/spoken word pieces Niece Normal Woman and Friendly Little Heart Attack. In the ornate space of Union Chapel the effect was stunning and met with huge applause.
The rest of the show was heavily based around her latest, self-titled, and as yet unreleased, new album. Vinyl shortages are to blame for the delay apparently, but it should be out next month. Several of those songs are already available to stream in the EPs Was and Is and were greeted like old favourites by an adoring crowd. As she had promised there were some real old favourites too, and it was a treat to hear Mainstream again (with special mention to Jim Kirkpatrick on guitar).
At the show’s close, as Thea once again stood on stage completely alone but with her sparkly blue Gretsch electric for company this time, she mused that if there was a theme to the new album it was love in its various forms. There was a second theme though, and that was women and their treatment. An earlier audience singalong of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun was dedicated to Sarah Everard, and once again it was made explicit that The War is about the murdered MP Jo Cox.
Still, love was to be our parting thought as Thea led the audience through another singalong and another new song, and possibly the sweariest one the sacred bricks of Union Chapel have ever been subject to, as several hundred congregants gently crooned along to the chorus of That’s Love, Motherfucker.
Thea’s audience has always typically been 10 to 20 years older than her, and that shows no sign of changing. The younger people were mainly kids accompanied by parents.
It made me think..
The 2 solo shows I saw by Thea were slightly nervy affairs, and it was wonderful to see her looking so confident and assures while rocking out with a band.