Prompted by the much-discussed Bros documentary, Flo & Joan’s last show fretted at the acrimonious end to which sibling musical partnerships must tend. This one looks through the other end of the telescope, at the prospect of these “singing spinster sisters” doomed to singledom and a 60-year co-dependency. That doesn’t seem such a grim fate given the fun that Flo, Joan (AKA Nicola and Rosie Dempsey) and their audience have across two hours of their touring set Sweet Release. If its new suite of comic songs isn’t quite as big-hitting as the 2019 vintage, this is another entertaining offer from the Dempseys, crowd-pleasing and well woven together.
The chat between songs feels looser, too. Nicola, on keyboard, is still taciturn. Rosie, on vocals and sometimes drums, is still dotty. But the dynamic feels less engineered to be awkward than in the past. What seems spontaneous may not be always be so, mind you, given how many casual asides are recycled as lyrics and punchlines later in the show. That brings a neat sense of structure to the evening, whose numbers track the duo’s journey through dating apps, moments of mortification, and – reviving a back catalogue hit – nights (and jobs) lost to heavy drinking.
The dating and relationships theme is lightly worn. One number imagines an alien boyfriend (“He doesn’t get along with my father / But he does get along with my microwave”). Another, off-message entirely, addresses – with jazz hands, trumpet noises and a pleasing spirit of free-association – those ageing male comedians inconvenienced by modern mores. The laughs are evenly shared between songs and chat: I loved the image conjured in one conversation, of the touring sisters in twin beds in a Travelodge, “cutting a quiche in half with a credit card”.
It’s not all glamour, then. Nor laughter, either, when the focus turns to women’s public safety with a song whose jauntiness is overshadowed (as I’m sure Flo & Joan know) by the bleak realities it evokes. Elsewhere, merriment tends, just about, to outpace real-world concerns. It’s another fine set from a duo whose co-dependency, while bad for them, is a boon for audiences.