Peter Bruntnell is one of those artists where you don’t have to search too hard to find someone who has a good word to say about him. Whatever you want to call the scene that he has been part of for over twenty years – alt country, roots rock, Americana - , the song writing prowess and the knack of delivering knockout full band performances has led to many plaudits. From a hazy memory, the West Midlands hasn’t seen too many live performances from him in recent times, so it was good to anticipate a few tunes being caught when a show at the Kitchen Garden was announced.
Peter admitted that his solo acoustic shows are bit sparse these days, so he was prepared to go with the flow leading to an element of spontaneity sparked by a series of invited audience requests. The pattern of these songs was characterised by their popular appeal especially ‘Sea of Japan’ and ‘Caroline’. One request that did present a challenge was ‘Jurassic Parking Lot’, but not to be outdone this was duly delivered after a few pauses for thought.
Leading the way from his own choice of songs was the excellent ‘Here Comes the Swells’. The breadth of his career was covered straight from the off with the title track from the 1995 album CANNIBAL right up to the current day with ‘Long Way From Home’ lifted off the latest record NOS DA COMRADE. This acted as the first encore song before the evening closed with a version of the classic Smiths track ‘Reel Around the Fountain’, the lyrics being whispered under the breath of more than a few audience members.
Part of the appeal of this show was Peter’s generally laid back approach, which steered clear of any pretence and created a cordial relaxed atmosphere in the venue. His gratitude towards a fine opening set from Birmingham’s own singer-songwriter Dannielle Cawdell was in accordance with the overall mood established as soon as the curtain partitioning the performing area was closed just after eight. Indeed, Dannielle’s own set showed a marked increase in confidence since seeing her perform at the venue earlier in the summer. An assurance that she will continue to get an increasing number of local gig offers to fit into her busy schedule.
Although the overall feel of the show was decidedly low key, this didn’t detract from its enjoyable aspect especially when folks are enlightened by the true story surrounding the song ‘By the Time My Head Gets to Phoenix’. On a more serious note, Peter didn’t shy away from darker offerings such as ‘One Drink Away’ and songs with a personal connection like ‘Have You Seen That Girl Again’. One new composition was shared in ‘National Library’ with its dedication to the Conservative party.
While the audience was frequented by many long term Peter Bruntnell admirers, others did learn a little about what makes him tick and his style of song delivery. In fact, this format is more akin to a level of discovery rather than the standard band performance, which is characterised by its energy and excitement. Ultimately, this is the type of show that the Kitchen Garden excels at and those attending would undoubtedly have joined the lengthy list of Peter Bruntnell plaudits.