The Unthanks @ Sheffield City Hall
Review of The Unthanks at Sheffield City Hall Ballroom on Saturday 28 February 2015.
The Unthanks last played in Sheffield at the 2013 DocFest, accompanying a marvellous film about shipbuilding, so tonight was the first chance I’d had to see them in anything other than the received glow of a cinema screen. They pretty much command the attention of a loyal band of folk music followers, keen to hear their take on combining mainly Northumbrian folk songs with subtle string and brass arrangements. Sisters Becky and Rachel Unthank have a combined vocal talent which I find totally beguiling. They seem to sing with one blended voice, as perhaps only sisters can, when it suits the songs, but at other times they perfectly complement each other with what seems like effortless harmonies. The musicians that they have gathered into their growing live band, work perfectly and seamlessly together. Tonight’s set mainly draws on the latest album, Mount the Air, but did include some songs from their 2011 project where they covered songs by Robert Wyatt and Antony and The Johnson, and they even sneaked in a cover of King Crimson’s ‘Starless’ to add some light and shade. The show finished with the title track from their new album, a swirling evocative piece, over ten minutes long, which brought the night to an almost dizzying end. The Unthanks provided a gentle but still fascinating and evolving approach to traditional British folk music.