This was a real treat – the sublimely harmonious Tyne & Wear singing sisters as part of an 11-piece ensemble delivering huge, symphonic sounds behind songs of everyday northern folk, and more.

To set the well-staged scene: grand piano stage left; drums, bass and guitar on the right and a string quartet at the back, with Rachel and Becky Unthank at the front – all beautifully and sympathetically lit.

Back on stage for the first time in two years and with a revised setlist causing a little consternation, the Unthanks are in the early stages of touring long-awaited forthcoming album Sorrows Away.

From the first notes of The Great Selkie of Sule Skerry you just knew it was going to be special – two voices working perfectly together, augmented by music that simply washed over you, enveloping your ears.

Although Adrian McNally, band manager, composer, producer, ex-husband of Rachel, led proceedings from the piano, it was Lizzie Jones’s sorrowful trumpet that left the biggest impression of cobbled streets and smoking chimneys.

The King of Rome, Dave Sudbury’s song about a racing pigeon which won an epic race from Rome to Derby in 1913, will always be a set highlight, but there was stiff competition this evening.

The Bay of Fundy, a taster from the new album, is an instant classic to join the likes of Mount The Air, The Month of January, Magpie and 19th century Newcastle songwriter blind Bobby Nunn’s The Sandgate Dandling Song.

Also needing a mention are Sorrows Away, the album title track which had the audience singing particularly well, The Isabella Coke Ovens, Gan To The Kye and Royal Blackbird.

Fiddle player Niopha Keegan joined the sisters as a third vocalist on some numbers, such as My Singing Bird, which worked well but somehow emphasised how close together the Unthanks’ voices really are.

Very much more than just a folk band from the North East, The Unthanks fuse traditional folk songs with jazz, funk, ambient, classical, rock even, to produce this big sound which is perfect for films.

It is Rachel’s band – they were previously Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, with younger sibling Becky always part of the scene and clog dancing central to matters. And, yes, they still get the clogs on.

Passionate, independent, unafraid of change, The Unthanks have established themselves as one of the great live acts. They promised to return, let’s hope they do.