Transported back in time to the imagined front room of Molly Drake, the stage is fittingly set for The Unthanks’ interpretation and performance of her songs and poems, entitled How Wild The Wind Blows. The stage, immediately eye-catching, is scattered with several standard lamps and a few table ones, all in white, combined with two white wicker chairs, two white curtains as a backdrop and in the centre, a grand piano. As the performance begins, the audience soon realises the purpose of the props: the white curtains become screens onto which beautiful photographs of Molly are projected, whilst the voice of her daughter, Gabrielle Drake, sounds out her poems, on their own at times and as part of the songs at others. The band members themselves are dressed in evening wear which, along with the cabaret style seating in The Queen’s Hall, make for an evocative and atmospheric evening with a 1940s feel.
The performance is split into two sets: the first of which begins with the first of Molly’s poems, followed by her songs. The audience receive a programme on their seats detailing information about this project, but Becky and Rachel also explain how they’d come across the album of Molly’s work and had been enticed by it. The Unthanks themselves have previously covered the work of Robert Wyatt and Anthony and the Johnsons. Tonight’s performance is a combination of duets and solos by Rachel and/or Becky. Each white wicker chair comes in handy for one sister while the other sings. The performances are nothing but beautiful, soothing and reflective. The audience are appreciative despite not knowing the songs, unless already familiar with Molly’s mostly unknown work. Perhaps because Becky and Rachel are sisters, the harmonising is exceptional, and perfectly synced. The first set ends with Little Weaver Bird which they explain is one of their favourites. A little banter ensues as Adrian McNally, piano, voice and husband of Rachel Unthank, advertises the selling of merchandise at the interval. The new album, Diversions Volume 4: The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake isn’t out for another month yet but is on sale as a bargain ‘bundle’ along with Extras.
The end of the second set comes to a particularly poignant conclusion with Do You Ever Remember?, accompanied by home videos of Molly Drake and her family projected onto the white curtains. The audience is completely captivated… but it’s not over yet. The encore consists of two songs: a wonderful version of River Man by Nick Drake, Molly’s son, who was a musician in the 1970s, followed by Dream Your Dreams. Rapturous applause follows, along with a strong desire to listen and find out more about Molly and Nick Drake. Mission accomplished The Unthanks!