Blake Dunlop, remember that name. He was the night’s opening act and he was pure entertainment. Even with technical hitches he saw the bright side and had the audience laughing along. His introductions had us at ease with songs such as Sweet On You about his girlfriends’ mother and 356 about a Porsche he saw in Mayfair. I bet that last sentence even has you smiling.
As Thea Gilmore took to the stage, there was not one empty seat and it seemed like the audience were eager with anticipation. It has been about two years since her last visit and we were also the first night of The Counterweight tour, and the album had yet to be released.
Dreamy keyboards played and there was a golden silence over the audience before Gilmore entered the room to grace us with the first track of the night, Fall Together. More new tracks followed but she told us that she has to plug the new album and there are old ones coming. So after Reconcile came Juliet, a 2003 song, which definitely got a nod of approval from those that have followed her work for some time. Throughout the night we dipped in and out of the new album with the right balance for the long-time followers.
A wonderful moment in the night was the ‘campfire section’ as Gilmore’s 10-year old, grade 4 violinist son Egan Stonier, joined her on stage and opened with The Voice, a song written at the time of the 2010 election. We got the sense that not only has her sound matured, but also her way of addressing music, as like she stated earlier, this was very much a campfire sounding song and more story-telling was to follow.
After the campfire came another kind of fire with possibly the most stand out moment of the night, as Gilmore introduced Johnny Gets A Gun – a track about the Columbine American High School shooting. The hall we were in had been pretty dark all night so with nothing but the beat of the drum and the claps of the band that echoed around the whole room, we were left stunned. It was a powerful statement, not only in lyrics but also in performance. With this, it felt much more true when she told us the album was written mainly in the dark times of 2016.
Thankfully though the whole night had not been too dark and Thea followed up with the warmer sounding Beautiful Day and Love Came Looking For Me with their more positive feel. A standing ovation then led to two more tunes, most notably with a nod to the late Jo Cox with the song The War, where she ‘raised up her hand and fought to bridge a divide!’
Words & Image by Victoria Ling