HELLO CRUEL WORLD is the title of the latest album from Gretchen Peters and tonight she must have felt that that sentiment was a little too close to home as initially her microphone hadn’t been set up properly so as soon as she started to sing, we couldn’t hear a word and at the end of the set, the piano stool that her accompanist husband Barry Walsh had been sitting on, fell off the stage as he stood up – luckily it was caught magnificently by someone in the front row and no harm was done.
After such an inauspicious start and ending you might think that it wouldn’t auger well for the bit in between but you couldn’t be more wrong - the evening was a triumph! Playing to a full house, Peters was not only accompanied by Walsh (piano, accordion and glockenspiel) but also by Christine Bougie (guitar, percussion and lap steel) who are both fine musicians.
Peters nearing the end of a five week tour has been riding the crest of a wave due in no small part to the support her latest album has received from BBC Radio 2. Sold out shows have been the order of the day and Peters seems genuinely taken aback by the sizeable audiences throughout the tour.
Tonight, she explained that the new album would be played in its entirety and would be followed by some older songs. I always think that it is quite brave to play a new album all the way through but she had judged her audience carefully and it was extremely well received. A seasoned songwriter, perhaps better known for writing hits for other artists (Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, George Strait) it is heartening to see her being recognised in her own right as a performer too. HELLO CRUEL WORLD contains some of her strongest material to date peppered as it is with characters whose life choices really strike a chord with those of us who are contemporaries of Peters’. Acknowledging that ‘there are people who find sad songs depressing and then there are us!’ Peters’ material has a knack of making you really listen to the lyric and then marvel at her ability to encapsulate regret and loss with such clarity and a lack of sentimentality.
Finishing the HELLO CRUEL WORLD suite of songs, she played Little World solo, on piano and then left the stage inviting her accompanists back to perform the Walsh penned instrumental Koblenz before rejoining them on stage for ‘a couple of older songs’. Secret of Life (a hit for Faith Hill) followed by Guadalupe (written by Tom Russell) and To Say Goodbye completed the set. A standing ovation ensued and a return for a two-song encore drew the evening to a close. On A Bus To St Cloud saw spontaneous applause break out from the first notes and the closer Jagger and Richards’ Wild Horses was an unexpected surprise.
With only a few more dates left on this visit, Peters has wowed audiences across the UK and continental Europe who will be eagerly anticipating a return visit in the not too distant future. She will be back in the UK this summer playing the festival circuit – if you were one of the few to miss her this time round then be sure to mark your calendars now! Jela Webb
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