With the effects of the recent highly successful Blackbirds UK tour barely worn off, Gretchen, Barry, Christine and Conor were once again reunited as a quartet to replicate the magic of the two previous albums into a live interpretation. Understandably the songs from BLACKBIRDS took pride of place in the set list which spanned across an interval, on an evening dictated like so many weekend gigs by an early start. However this had no bearing on the ensuing quality that followed with the new songs getting bedded in more effectively as live numbers. They also have the added impetus of driving the older songs to higher limits and for nearly two hours tonight, Gretchen effortlessly moved into a raised sphere of performance revealing an artist still in the ascendancy some two decades since flirting with the bright lights of conditional fame.
What we get from Gretchen in 2015 is acres of unconditional brilliance as she ferments as a writer and visibly moves audiences with her stage rendition of a back catalogue framed for posterity in the annals of the vinyl and digital world. The band experience has uplifted the immortality of songs from HELLO CRUEL WORLD to now reside alongside her 90s classics. No doubt in time, the same will apply to many of BLACKBIRD’s tracks as even in the space of four months since an inaugural live listening, they seemed to acquire an enhanced stage dimension. Of course this is natural progression for the output from an artist now enshrined in the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. No mean feat given the fantastic heritage of lyrical composers thriving in the creative surroundings of Music City.
Blackbirds (2015) - Blackbirds. Pretty Things. When All You Got is a Hammer. Everything Falls Away. The House on Auburn Street. Nashville. Black Ribbons. The Cure for the Pain.
Hello Cruel World (2012) - Hello Cruel World. The Matador. Woman on the Wheel. Five Minutes. Idlewild
One to the Heart, One to the Head (2009) - Gualalupe
The Secret of Life (1996) - On a Bus to St. Cloud. Independence Day
Covers - I Ain't Living Long Like This (Rodney Crowell) In Spite of Ourselves (John Prine)
Silencio (2014) Barry Walsh - October Waltz