Another year and another Gretchen Peters tour. Celebrating her 20th anniversary, this was certainly a show not to be missed. With Gretchen not venturing into Dorset this time and the tour selling out fast, I decided on a long trek to Sheffield and not surprisingly it was well worth the trip.
Since moving to Nashville Gretchen has become a highly respected prolific song writer and in 2014 was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. Whilst she initially struggled to win over fans in her homeland, Gretchen was always warmly received in the UK and now plays to sell-out audiences at some of our more prestigious venues.
With a new retrospective double album THE ESSENTIAL GRETCHEN PETERS in the racks, it was clear where the focus would be with 13 of the 21 songs on offer featuring on the new release. This was just what the punters wanted to hear. Supported by husband Barry Walsh (piano, accordion), Colly McLean (guitars, pedal steel) and Conor McCreanor (bass), Gretchen set the scene with The Secret Of Life, the title track from her first album. Although inundated with audience requests, most were already on the set list and everything was instantly recognisable to the army of Yorkshire devotees. Hello Cruel World and Blackbirds, both title tracks, the latter receiving two awards at the recent UK Americana Awards, were highlights of a superb opening set and I really liked The Matador, with Barry Walsh’s accordion giving the song a distinctive Spanish feel as Gretchen can’t decide whether she’s in love with the matador or the bull. Dedicating When We Are Old to the late but extremely influential Sir Terry Wogan was a nice appreciative touch. The powerful ballad of lost love, Everything Falls Away was a fitting number to take us into the break.
Gretchen opened the second set accompanying herself on the Yamaha grand for her anthem to domestic violence, Independence Day, before switching to the guitar for If Heaven, as she reminisced ‘that this was just like it was on the first tour’. With Hubby and her two Irish compatriots now back in situ, it was more of the same and a minor sound problem on Black Ribbons was quickly forgotten. When All You Got is a Hammer, a tragic tale of a war veteran wh o can’t support his family, the ever popular On a Bus to St. Cloud, the gorgeous ballad Five Minutes and the sad tale of a family in disarray, Idlewild were all impeccably delivered to the delight of the packed house.
Encores were of course, inevitable and Gretchen returned with Barry Walsh to deliver a folk version of When You Love Someone which she recorded with her long time song writing partner Bryan Adams, before rocking out with Rodney Crowell’s classic I Ain’t Living Long Like This. It’s impossible to pigeon-hole Gretchen Peters. She is simply a superb entertainer. Her music is not quite folk, not quite country, not quite easy listening or jazz which thankfully, slots it firmly into th e realms of Americana. Anyone who missed this tour should look out for the inevitable return next year and if you are unfamiliar with her music, THE ESSENTIAL GRETCHEN PETERS is a great place to start. John Roffey ‚ www.gretchenpeters.com