Thea Gilmore, Union Chapel, London
Monday 06 June 2011
A one-off event paying tribute to Dylan's 70th birthday, Thea Gilmore's concert showcased her own re-recording of his John Wesley Harding album, interspersed with one or two musical and poetic asides.
The first of these was the lovely version of "Girl of the North Country", which opened the show, setting the gently reverent tone for her interpretations of Dylan's subtle, mysterious parables.
The original album contains his most rewarding religious imagery and the Union Chapel offered the requisite ambience of faith, hope and charity for Gilmore's quiet, respectful performances. "I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine", which originally triggered her project, was sublimely illuminated from within by Robbie McIntosh's guitar break and concluding coda.
"All Along the Watchtower" was preceded by Gilmore reading the Bible passage that inspired the lyric, the song's haunting tone subtly conveyed by McIntosh's eerie, reverberating slide guitar and the understated wind-howls of Gilmore and backing vocalist Tracy Brown. Later on, "I Am a Lonesome Hobo", set to desolate banjo and Dobro, was likewise pertinently prefaced by a solo a cappella version of Hank Williams's "Lost Highway", which confirmed that the strength and purity of Gilmore's singing was in no way diminished by the travails of her prominent pregnancy.
Her best delivery , however, was reserved for the bluesy "Dear Landlord", on which piano and slide Dobro provided weary, louche support to her restrained, soulful vocal. Elsewhere, "The Wicked Messenger" was done as a cantering rockabilly, while the bleak, windswept manner of Dylan's original "As I Went Out One Morning" was slightly toned down in tonight's arrangement. Deft picking by McIntosh and Nigel Stonier on a chipper "Down Along the Cove", and a warm, lilting "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" brought the tribute to an end, before Gilmore offered a few of her own songs to close the show.
The most enjoyable of these was "This Girl Is Taking Bets", whose string of fanciful descriptive images was given the classic "Subterranean Homesick Blues" card-dropping treatment, the A2 sheets littering the stage as the song rattled along. "You have no idea how long it took us to make those," Gilmore confided at its conclusion. "And we didn't have Donovan and Ginsberg to help us, either."
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