Thursday, 8 March 2012

Gretchen Peters Robin 2 Bilston Wednesday 7th March 2012

By her own admission the success of her current album ‘Hello Cruel World’ has taken Gretchen Peters aback especially as there has been numerous other studio ones since the outset of her recording career in the mid 90’s. To celebrate the critical acclaim that the album is getting, she is making it the centre piece of her current extensive UK tour by playing the eleven track collection of fine songs in their entirety. Therefore the sizeable Robin 2 crowd were treated to a more different than usual Gretchen Peters show that left room for only a handful of the popular songs that had helped her forge a loyal UK following over the last decade. However the reaction the new songs got from the audience suggested a full appreciation of the whole ‘Hello Cruel World’ project and the acknowledgement that this is probably a career defining record.

As with her previous solo promoted show at the Robin 2, Gretchen was accompanied by her husband Barry Walsh, whose keyboard and accordion skills are becoming an integral part of the Gretchen Peters experience. For this tour the duo are transformed into a trio with the highly talented Canadian session musician, Christine Bougie adding her multi instrumental rhythm skills to the mix. In particular the lap steel gave an atmospheric edge to the conventional sound of acoustic guitar and keyboard.

The unusual feature of this show was its highly structured nature as Gretchen elected to play the songs in album order, a feature becoming more popular in the UK as bands tour to celebrate anniversaries of iconic albums. To those already familiar with the album, it created a slightly predictable experience but on the positive side it was a wonderful opportunity to soak up the intimacies and subtleties of the record, all supplemented by informative dialogue accompanying many of the tracks. It is not unusual to have a song’s listening experience enhanced by a live version and in this particular show, ‘Five Minutes’ and ‘Little World’ fell into that category, thus elevating a fine album into an almost complete one. Although ‘Woman on the Wheel’, The Matador’ and ‘Dark Angel’ will always remain the stand out tracks.

After ‘Little World’ brought the album to a close, Gretchen handed over the reins to Barry and Christine as they performed an instrumental from his ‘Paradiso’ album titled ‘Koblenz’. The immediate return of Gretchen to the stage left only a short period of time to play some old songs and on this occasion she chose ‘Secret of Life’, ‘Guadalupe’, ‘To Say Goodbye’ and the highly popular show closer ‘On a Bus to St Cloud’. Although it was a little disappointing that ‘Independence Day’ gave way to an impromptu tribute to the late Davy Jones with a cover of ‘Last Train to Clarkesville'.

Gretchen has split the support duties on this tour and the Bilston show benefitted from a lively country oriented opening slot from Canadian singer-song writer Lynne Hanson. However this night was all about ‘Hello Cruel World’ and the obvious positive impression it left on the audience.

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