Friday, 6 April 2012

An evening with Gretchen Peters

Those who follow this blog on a regular basis will know that I occasionally indulge myself with "reviews" of some of my favourite gigs. I use inverted commas because music reviews aren't exactly my forté - as one of my great heroes Jeff Tweedy once sang, I'm just a fan.

Opportunities to see great live music in Nottingham and its environs used to be few and far between, but over the last few years, venues have begun to spring up all over the place. The Capital FM Arena and Royal Concert Hall provide for the bigger, more established acts, whilst Rock City and The Rescue Rooms play host to an amazing variety of less well-known (though often much better and more deserving) artists. Even smaller venues such as The Maze provide a stage for many obscure folk, rock and indie bands, both international and local (my son's band have played there on numerous occasions, although I have yet to see them). But a new one on me is The Glee Club, which occupies part of the old British Waterways building down by the Canal. The Glee Club is (judging by its website) centred more on comedy than music, but that may change, once more artists of the calibre of Gretchen Peters discover what a great venue it is.

Gretchen Peters is one of those artists whose music is (mercifully) difficult to pigeonhole - which is both a boon and a burden, because those who can't be pigeonholed are often the most talented and diverse, but find real commercial success difficult (if not downright impossible) to come by. She first appeared on my radar a good few years ago, with relatively minor "hits" such as "On A Bus To St Cloud" and "When You Are Old", but for some reason I never sought to discover more about her music. But with the advent of Spotify, I quickly realised what I had been missing and went out and bought 3 of her CD's - "Circus Girl - The Best Of Gretchen Peters" to cover the earlier stuff, "One To The Heart, One To The Head" (an album of duets with Tom Russell) and her latest release "Hello Cruel World".

Last night's gig began with Gretchen and her band - comprising her husband Barry Walsh, a master of the piano, glockenspiel and accordian and the very talented Christine Bougie on guitar, lap steel and percussion - performing "Hello Cruel World" in its entirety. It is a very personal album, filled with brilliantly-crafted songs, some quite dark and introspective, but curiously uplifting and forward-looking. And all sung with a voice like liquid velvet. The title track is just one of many outstanding compositions, and here's a taster.......

The second part of the show consisted of songs from Peters' earlier albums, the highlights for me being "Guadaloupe" from the aforementiond collaboration with Tom Russell, "On A Bus To St Cloud" and an audience-assisted rendition of the Rolling Stones' classic "Wild Horses" to finish. I got the impression that at least 80% of the audience were older than TLD and I, which only serves to prove the fact that real wisdom only comes with age. I probably sound like an old fart, but if only the youth of today - many of whom are brought up on a musical diet of throwaway pop - could see what they were missing, artists like Gretchen Peters would perhaps receive the recognition they deserve. Meanwhile, it must remain our little secret. 

What I like about these small venues is that the artist often comes to the merchandise stand to meet and greet those who are keen enough to stay behind for a few minutes, and I was lucky enough to get a couple of my CD covers signed and to have a photo taken with Gretchen. Geeky, I know, especially for a 51-year-old, but it only served to enhance both my opinion of an exceptional singer-songwriter and my memory of an already memorable evening. If I learned two things last night, they were these - firstly, flash photography in a dimly-lit room does nothing to enhance my already weathered features - and secondly, Gretchen Peters is wonderful!

       TLD took this photo - one of 2, but although the other had all of my face in 
the frame, I deemed it simply too horrific for public viewing!

Sad, I know - but like I said, I'm just a fan!

Other music artists on this blog;


Simon said...

Hi Leon
Really enjoyed your review - I was at the gig last night and was the guy behind your wife when she was getting to grips with your camera phone!
Wholeheartedly agree with your comments about the sublime Gretchen

Leon Stolarski said...

Hi Simon
Thanks for dropping by and for posting a comment - and sorry for keeping you waiting! ;-) I assume you found the blog via Twitter - unless Google found the blog entry pretty damn quick. Whatever, isn't the Internet wonderful?
Best regards, Leon

Simon R said...

Thanks for the review - and there's nothing wrong with meeting the artist after the show, I do it all the time!