Thea Gilmore

Thea Gilmore: Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne. 12th November 2015

She’s got a great voice, writes brilliant songs, has a back catalogue of 17 albums worth of material and counts Joan Baez and Bruce Springsteen among her biggest fans. Yet mention the name Thea Gilmore to the average man or woman in the street and the chances are you’ll draw blank. What’s going on? Let’s just say Thea does it her way. She refuses to be manipulated by the music business and that has meant a number of missed opportunities. And guess what? It’s the music business’s loss. Uncompromising and defiantly in control of her own musical destiny, Thea kicked off her latest UK tour with a concert at the small but perfectly formed Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne.

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 The show may have been a little ragged around the edges in terms of presentation - at times it was like watching her in the studio - but Thea was in fine voice and accompanied by her husband, the record producer Nigel Stonier, on guitar, piano and harmony vocals and multi-instrumentalist Tracey Browne, she delivered some absolute gems. There were beautifully crafted songs from across her career. Whether it’s slow romantic burn, angry thrash or thoughtful observation, Thea writes compelling material, marrying instantly foot-tapping music to thoughtful, intelligent and eloquent lyrics. 

 Switching between guitar and a variety of electronic loops, sound delays and other gizmos she sang wonderful harmony with Stonier and occasionally with herself. Stand out numbers included recent recordings like Inch by Inch, original written during the Obama election campaign; Copper, the brilliant opening number of her recent album Ghosts and Graffiti but also other powerful songs from way back like 2003’s Rags and Bones and others like Old Soul and London.

Gilmore sometimes reworks or simply re-records her favourite songs and treasures them  with a sense of pride that probably confuses the hard-nosed suits who keep the commercial interests of record companies on track. Does she care? Not one jot and we are getting a better, more honest, more creative show as a result. Of course Thea Gilmore is always likely to throw in a surprise - at the Tivoli there was a rather good violin spot from eight-year-old son Egan, an a capella number here, a do-it-yourself techie soundscape there and a version of the oft-covered 1962 Skeeter Davis ballad End of the World with lone piano accompaniment from Stonier. There is even a new limited edition EP - available only at concerts. It’s called Girl Mercury. We were treated to four numbers including the feisty title track and the rather splendid Josephine Knot which we were informed was inspired by a programme on shipping. That’s the other thing with Thea Gilmore you get some entertaining anecdotes between songs too. 

This was a lovely concert which opened with a brief set from promising sounding newcomer Kerry Oliver. A name to watch out for.

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2017