herald

Saturday 18 November 2017

Spellbinding sisters spin a wondrous webb

"IT'S like one big hug." You're not wrong there, Ms Webb. The other Ms Webb nods in agreement. Last time we saw these gifted siblings from Kent, they were playing back-up to Leonard Cohen.

Six years on the road with the Canadian, and they've clearly learned a thing or two about holding an audience captive. And they've picked up a few extra fans (it's a full house tonight).

Hattie has brought her famous harp, and Charley is on acoustic guitar, but most of us have come to hear their achingly beautiful voices. A smart and consistent musical duo, the Webb Sisters (who appear to be getting younger) combine elegant finger-plucking with wondrous vocal harmonies. What other folk twosome has the ability to bring a packed Whelan's to a stunned silence?

ORIGINAL

The covers (a near-unrecognisable Always on My Mind, and Baby Can I Hold You) are extraordinary. Cohen's If It Be Your Will knocks the wind out of us. Then there are the original numbers (the sisters have three albums and a handful of EPs to their name).

And so they deliver an enchanting collection of catchy, sweetly-sung folk-pop ditties (Missing Person), dazzling hand-clap manoeuvres (the sublime Words That Mobilise) and numerous mandolin-coated high jinks.

The voices are spellbinding, and boy, can Hattie make that harp dance. They're pretty funny, too, and they teach us a few hand and facial gestures they've devised so as to explain to foreign audiences the meanings behind their songs.

They also share memories of their time spent with Cohen, which leads one punter to declare that they've named their cat after him. "Do you stroke Leonard?" asks Charley. Steady on.

But then, the Webb Sisters say all the right things. The whiskey here is the best. That Old Wheel should be renamed That Old Whelan's. And they've even brought gifts.

Playful, generous and exceptionally talented performers, the Webb Sisters love what they do, and they're very, very good at it.

How about that final cover at the end – a microphone-free rendition of Cheap Trick's I Want You To Want Me? Unexpected. But it was pretty special. Stellar work, sisters. HHHHH

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