Thursday 22 February 2018

Review: Sister act keep it in the family

Folk: The Wainwright Sisters, Pavilion, Dún Laoghaire

Martha Wainwright.
Martha Wainwright.
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

Half-sisters Martha and Lucy Wainwright may be members of one of the leading dynasties in musical history, but they don't take themselves too seriously.

"Our brother Rufus bought us these matching dresses when we told him we were making a record together," Martha Wainwright offers by way of an explanation for their strange striped stage uniforms. "Aren't they disgusting?"

Despite their chequered careers and an illustrious family tree including the late Kate McGarrigle, Rufus Wainwright and Loudon Wainwright lll, Martha and Lucy hadn't sung together since releasing last year's album Songs in the Dark.

Amazingly, this is only their sixth ever live show. They self-depreciatingly apologise for its slightly ramshackle nature, but it's an absolute treat. Their voices blend as if the half-sisters have been operating as a duo for a lifetime.

The great American songbook from Woody Guthrie to Townes Van Zandt's Our Mother the Mountain and Lullaby by their father, is tacked alongside an exquisite version of Do You Love An Apple? by the Bothy Band.

Martha reveals a new song entitled Traveller about a friend who died at the age of 40. The Wainwrights play lullabies their mothers Kate McGarrigle and Suzzy Roche sung to them as children alongside stark songs about down-a-bouts, hobos and derailed lives.

"Journalists have been asking us why are our songs so depressing," Lucy reveals. "Do they know us at all?"

The songs may have a dark heart, but Martha and Lucy's sparkling sense of humour would make singing a mass card uplifting. In lesser hands, an evening of minimal folk on two acoustic guitars risks dragging at some point, but the Wainwrights make every moment captivating.

The hilarity continues when Lucy says if anyone wants a picture or autograph after the show, it might be an idea to keep their distance, as they've been wearing these dresses for every gig. Humour perfectly collides with the darkness, as the Wainwrights do the family business proud.

Irish Independent

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