The Chapin Sisters
Posted: 12 Jun 2011
The Chapin Sisters
Cluny 2, Ouseburn, Newcastle
9 June 2011
If you were lucky enough to be at any of Harry Chapin’s gigs at Newcastle City Hall in the late 70s or very early 80s then you witnessed one of the few performers charismatic enough to create an atmosphere to rival the legendary Lindisfarne Christmas concerts of the era. Killed in a car crash in 1981, three decades later his nieces Abigail and Lily Chapin played the second night of their first UK tour in the North East.
The LA-based sisters who released their album ‘Two’ in the UK the week before this gig are very much their own act. This is no ‘tribute to Uncle Harry’ show and nor should it be. Beginning with a bold a cappella ‘Sweet Light’, on the surface the Chapin Sisters are wispy young women: all smiles, long blonde hair and immaculate harmonies. Tune into them, though, and the contrast between their soft surface thinly disguises a darkness deeper than the depths you descend to get into the excellent if tiny venue of the Cluny 2.
Twice they referred to dipping into the past for part of their repertoire but anyone hoping for a piece of Chapin nostalgia would be disappointed. Britney Spears’ Toxic was slowed to a snail’s pace for a threateningly menacing version while the second and final encore paid tribute to Morrissey with ‘I know it’s over.’ Leading into that their first encore captured the Chapin Sisters’ ability to lull you into false complacency: “You are the one for me” they began, “I know that’s true. There’s nothing as sure as the way I adore you. So listen up well, I’ve been dying to tell you: I don’t like your girlfriend!”
Lyrically the Chapin Sisters are reminiscent of Leonard Cohen at times and well worth catching when they make their planned return in November. A word too for the excellent opening act ‘The O’s’ - a multi-instrumental Dallas duo who were a tough act to follow and who the Chapin Sisters complemented elegantly in another fine night organised by Tyneside treasure ‘The Jumpin’ Hot Club’.