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The Radcliffe Centre, Buckingham May 31st 2008

Thea Gilmore, photo by David Humphries

Photo: 2008 David Humphries

Half way through her first date of summer 2008's UK tour promoting new release Liejacker, Thea Gilmore asks whether we can take the darkest song in what she admits to being a pretty dark set.

"But, of course!" is the import of the responding chuckle from an array of twenty somethings and middle-aged mums and dads, parked on folding chairs in the sepulchral Radcliffe Centre, a faintly neglected former chapel in the shadows of Georgian Buckingham's hilltop church.

The gathering of fan clan Gilmore drawn miles from this quiet former county town know that the excellent Liejacker measures a period of personal schism for Gilmore: a record label and a manager gone, a first child arrived, some bouts of depression to battle through.

Nigel Stonier and Thea Gilmore, photo by David Humphries

Photo: 2008 David Humphries

This, her most personal and - even for an artist as straight as this - 'honest' work, plays well in an ancient vaulted space, the summer light slipping as Thea (guitars and one of the finest voices on the scene), partner Nigel Stonier (guitars, piano) and beret-bearing Fluff ("she plays anything with strings," Thea tells us) build a big sound for an acoustic showcase of the album's gritty, sad yet ultimately affirming songs.

New single 'Old Soul' makes a mid-paced start, off-set by slow burns in 'Dancing in New York', the wistful 'Icarus Wind' and a possessive take on 'The Sisters of Mercy' (remarking that she doesn't cover a song that she can't somehow make her own, Gilmore promptly controls Cohen's masterpiece).

Any mordancy is offset by cheerful banter and pacier numbers in a ceilidh no less, the album's 'When I Get Back To The Shore', and toe-tapper 'You Spin Me Right Round' (which does just that and leaves you rejoining its chorus hours after).

Thea Gilmore, photo by David Humphries

Photo: 2008 David Humphries

Some old faves pop by ('Avalanche' scores an airing) while a generous dollop of encore includes the pin-drop 'I'm Gonna Haunt You' that so startled Jools Holland and his audience all those years back on TV's 'Later...'

This Thea Gilmore is older, wiser now; feisty is still inherent in her work but gawky has gone and she's writing actuality rather than conjecture.

Bruce Springsteen is a fan. Zuton Dave McCabe is on the album. So is Joan Baez.

Thea Gilmore is back - get to a gathering of the clan at a venue near you.

Review by Peter Muir

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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