The Unthanks St George's 9/10
ONLY an hour-long but filled with decades of history, happiness, misery and suffering, The Unthanks at St George's was like nothing else in Bristol this year.
This wasn't a gig, as sisters Becky and Rachel Unthank, and band members Adrian McNally on piano, Chris Price on guitar and Niopha Keegan on violin, were soundtracking a film, Songs from the Shipyards, projected on to a screen behind them.
Not once did they do this but twice, as most unusually there were back to back performances of this show at both 7pm and 9pm on Tuesday evening. It wasn't a typical live score either, with the films shown being archives of the rise and fall of the shipbuilding industry in The Unthanks' native North East of England.
Songs from the Shipyards began as a project from Newcastle's Tyneside Cinema, the Geordie Watershed if you will, a venue that is much more than just a cinema.With support from organisations including regional screen agency Northern Film & Media and Arts Council England, this blend of music, film, archive and social comment was born. And what a magical blend it was, with the Unthanks' lilting vocals with their distinctive North Eastern twang the perfect foil to scenes of a bygone age.
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The peak of the area's shipbuilding prowess was celebrated, with one song accompanying the films of thousands of men hard at work, listing all of these men's trades, now all but gone and forgotten.
This was an illustration in microcosm of industry in not just the North East but Britain as well. The Falklands War also featured, alongside a moving cover of Elvis Costello's Shipbuilding. At the 9pm showing, there were even boos from the usually immaculately behaved St George's audience when Margaret Thatcher – the cause of so much of the misery in the archive news clips – appeared on screen.