Gig Review:
An Intimate Evening With The Unthanks At The Tabernacle,
Notting Hill, London W11, Wednesday 25th April 2012
Metropolis Music Presents

An Intimate Evening With The Unthanks
At The Tabernacle, Notting Hill

The Tabernacle
(Main Auditorium)
Powis Square, Notting Hill, London W11 2AY
Wednesday 25th April 2012, 7pm

Feat. Support:

Jonny Kearney & Lucy Farrell


The Unthanks

Rachel Unthank - vocals, feet (clog dancing)
Becky Unthank - vocals, feet (clog dancing)
Niopha Keegan - violin, backing vocals, vocals, dulcitone
Adrian McNally - piano
Chris Price - guitars, backing vocals, vocals

Date of Review: 2012/04/27

Photo - The Unthanks
The Unthanks
(L-R, Chris Price, Becky Unthank, Rachel Unthank, Adrian McNally, Niopha Keegan)
An Intimate Evening With The Unthanks At The Tabernacle,
Notting Hill, London W11, Wednesday 25th April 2012

An Intimate Evening With The Unthanks At The Tabernacle, Notting Hill, London W11 - part of The Unthanks' current tour of smaller venues with their core quintet - was surely unmissable and irresistible, offering a more intimate experience of this fabulous band.

If there was a drawback, it was the standing room only arrangement at The Tabernacle, necessitating frequent acquaintance with the floor which of course resulted in zero visual contact with the stage.

The venue seemed packed to capacity, probably near enough some four hundred or so enthusiastic 'folkies.' What was disappointing, if indeed not somewhat worrying, about the crowd was that there was virtually no 'ethnic' mix to it, maybe three or four souls of ethnically non-white origin excepted. Not representative of a healthy, working multiculturalism in action. We all need to take interest in and participate in each other's different cultures if multiculturalism is to work. Multiculturalism should, and must, never mean that we all stay in our own separate little cultural enclaves - this can only lead to cultural, if not physical, ghettoisation and must not be allowed to happen. We all need to be inclusive, not exclusive.

However, to return to An Intimate Evening With The Unthanks At The Tabernacle, Notting Hill, London W11as such. Wednesday night got under way with support duo Jonny Kearney & Lucy Farrell, presenting original material from their first album, Kite, released last autumn. They proved to be a superb duo delivering an excellent performance worthy of touring in their own right. Far more than a mere support act to 'warm up the crowd,' to be sure, and treated as far more by The Unthanks themselves. One would definitely like to see and hear more of Jonny Kearney & Lucy Farrell.

And then, The Unthanks themselves - Rachel and Becky Unthank, Adrian McNally, Niopha Keegan, and Chris Price. If you never yet managed to catch them live, whether in this core configuration or extended, you really ought to make an effort to do so. The live Unthanks experience - for an experience is what they are - is always something very special beyond their wonderful albums. And Wednesday night was no exception. For the young, healthy and fit it would have been very easy to forget the standing accommodation. The atmosphere that The Unthanks are able to generate right from the off with their wonderful mix of fabulous, mostly sad, songs and happy in between banter that might be taking place in someone's living room or a small folk club, is something that simply has to be experienced.

Pure joy and delight perhaps describes The Unthanks experience in distilled form. Even taking into account the mostly sad, even tragic nature of much if not most of The Unthanks' material. But hey, there has to be something wrong if one cannot enjoy a bit of misery!


The cut-down arrangements of the songs were a delight in themselves. The material came mainly from The Unthank's glorious albums Last - winner of the joint AWIL - Rainlore World Music Albums Top Ten of 2011 - and the earlier Here's The Tender Coming, with some also from the Shipyard project. Of course, two of the most tragic and also popular songs from the latter album could hardly be omitted, the heart-rending The Testimony Of Patience Kershaw and, as the fitting closer, the tragic, pathos-laden title track, Here's The Tender Coming. Somehow, all these simplified arrangements for the core quintet managed to sound not only gorgeous but in a way even more sad.

Not, of course, that all songs were exclusively all doom and gloom. There was, for example, McNally's beautiful, life-affirming Last. Again, this seemed to gain something extra in this cut-back arrangement.

The greatest gain that the simplified arrangements brought forth, of course, was an automatic greater intimacy. Perhaps even more so than the relatively smaller venue. And that, after all, is the whole point of this current Unthanks tour. This objective of greater intimacy was most definitely achieved in Wednesday's performance.

Rachel and Becky Unthank's vocals were as perfect as ever, of course, their harmonies and the purity of their outstanding voices simply gorgeous. A couple of off-mic songs were an extra treat not to be missed. Their clog dancing interjections, as always, had one wonder where they got the energy from. Just watching certainly had me break a sweat!

The instrumental accompaniments also were again flawless as always.

We were also treated to a few interludes in the form of songs by Chris Price as well as Niopha Keegan, which were a seamless fit to the rest of the evening's performance.

With the inevitable encore - off-mic - after the rapturous final applause following the second set, The Unthanks easily got a very large part of the audience to join in.

An Intimate Evening With The Unthanks At The Tabernacle, Notting Hill, London W11 was an unforgettable evening, absolutely gorgeous and delightful, and an unqualified success. The Unthanks, always taking the tradition forward in new directions yet with an obvious great love and respect for the tradition, are simply the best thing to have happened in British Folk in decades. Long may they continue to delight us!

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