BY LESLEY HASTINGS
“The end of an era” is really the only way to describe Gretchen Peters’ show last Friday, May 26th. The American singer/songwriter “found her people” ( her words) here in the UK while touring her debut album, the 1996 release “The Secret of Life”, and has thankfully been a frequent visitor to our shores over the years accompanied since the early ‘90s by her now husband and musical director Barry Walsh. Having decided to retire from the punishing life of international touring (but thankfully not from making new music) their final string of dates here ended with a stunner of a show at London’s gorgeous Cadogan Hall which, as expected, was packed with adoring fans, many of whom Gretchen said she recognised from their loyal support over the years.
From the opening song, the moving murder ballad “Blackbirds” (the body count at Gretchen’s shows is generally pretty high!) to the closer (an impromptu, solo acoustic rendition of “Love That Makes a Cup of Tea“ which I have on good authority was not included in any of the other dates on this tour) the mutual love between artist and audience was almost tangible throughout the two hour plus set.
Standing centre stage (obviously!) with her acoustic guitar and with minimal chat in between songs we were treated to a wonderful representation from Gretchen’s back catalogue……she had plenty of perfectly crafted songs from which to choose, no wonder she is revered not only by her fans but also her peers as one of the finest songwriters of her generation. Ably accompanied by the aforementioned Barry Walsh (piano/accordion) and long-standing band members Colm McClean (lead guitar) and Conor McCreanor (electric/upright bass), all three adding subtle backing vocals throughout the evening, the band were also joined for several numbers by opener and friend Kim Richey, her sublime harmonies lifting songs such as “Pretty Things”, “Guadalupe” (one of the covers that Gretchen really has made her own over the years) and “Say Grace” to a new level.
As mentioned earlier, Gretchen will continue to make music, and we got to hear an as yet unreleased song “Judas Kiss“ co-written with frequent collaborator Ben Glover which, as every song, was met with thunderous applause …..you could hear a pin drop during each and every song, by the way. But the loudest, most enthusiastic reception was reserved for two songs which which I’m sure would have resulted in a riot had they been omitted from the set, “On A Bus To St. Cloud” and “Five Minutes”, the latter I would rank as in my top 5 songs of all time.
Emotions were high as Gretchen thanked those who have played a major part throughout her career, including musicians, her both “sweet and badass” tour manager Rebecca Kemp, her promoter, publicist and all at Proper Records, plus the late great Terry Wogan and Bob Harris for playing her music on their radio shows. And her fans did not escape a mention even if we were reluctant to applaud ourselves.
But thank YOU, Gretchen, it was a privilege and honour to have been in the audience last Friday, and indeed at all your shows I’ve attended over the years ever since an ex (who obviously had his uses!) introduced me to your music when he took me to see you, Matraca Berg and Suzy Bogguss on the “ Wine, Women and Song” tour. Enjoy your less frantic lifestyle, keep the music coming and who knows, maybe we’ll see you here again at some point, if not for a full blown tour maybe the occasional appearance ….. as you mentioned on Friday, if Glastonbury were to invite you again ……
When All You Got Is A Hammer
Everything Falls Away
On A Bus To St. Cloud
When You Are Old
To Say Goodbye
Why You Been Gone So Long
I Ain’t Living Long Like This
One For My Baby
Love That Makes A Cup Of Tea