Nottingham 5 April 2012
was my first visit to Nottingham’s Glee Club, and thanks
to an early start, by the time the Strange Things
team arrived, all the seating was taken (and yes, this is a gig
where the audience stayed firmly in their seats) – an impressive
testament to Gretchen Peters’ popularity, though an inconvenience
if you fancied taking the weight off your feet. And if the venue
sometimes felt a little incongruous (having the word ‘glee’
in huge letters at the back of the stage while the performer is
singing heartfelt, darkly emotional songs just seems wrong!),
there was no faulting the sound, the atmosphere or the performances.
At the start of the show, Peters announced that she would be playing
the whole of her excellent new album Hello Cruel World
from start to finish. “Wow”, I thought, “like
classic Pink Floyd”, and indeed it was. I’ve
often wondered about acts who tour new albums and then only play
a part of it live – surely if a song is good enough for
the album, it’s good enough to play live, and taking a carefully
constructed LP and then breaking it up into chunks, interspersed
with older crowd pleasers, often seems to be missing the point.
So it was good to hear the album performed as one piece, especially
as – while not a concept album – it’s definitely
something that works best as a whole.
Back by a two-piece band of Christine Bougie and husband Barry
Walsh, Peters manages to create a sound that is surprisingly big,
yet very intimate. The lack of a rhythm section is occasionally
noticeable, especially on more upbeat numbers like Woman
on the Wheel, but generally this stripped-back line-up
creates an impressively full sound, fleshing out the songs on
What could’ve been a rather depressing selection of songs
was livened by Peter’s natural charm, self-deprecating humour
and connection with the audience, who clearly adored her. Given
that this gig took place in quite an open space, the show felt
surprisingly intimate. You could hear a pin drop during the songs
(apart from the constant rattle of glasses behind the bar near
to where I was stood) and the songs on the album took on a new
intimacy and passion live.
After the new stuff was done, Peters played selection of older
tunes, winding the show and indeed the European tour – up
with a plaintive, powerful cover of the Rolling Stones’
Wild Horses (joined by support act Lisbee Stainton).
A powerful finale to an excellent performance.