Home > Reviews > Live Reviews > 20/03/2012 | Gretchen Peters – Bush Hall, London

20/03/2012 | Gretchen Peters – Bush Hall, London

Jo Cox


One of the best parts about going to a gig, for me, is the anticipation. Will I get to hear my favourite song? Will they play some new material? What are they going to do to make the show unique and exciting? To that end, when I hear an artist is simply playing their latest album in its entirety I quickly start to lose interest. If my favourite song isn’t on that album, my only chance of hearing it hinges on the last few tracks of the set. If I’d wondered whether they’d pull new material out of the bag I’m probably out of luck. If I wanted something unique, opportunity is greatly reduced. What is left then? For me, not a lot. Gretchen Peters had started to lose me before I even entered the venue. When she announced she was playing the songs in order, it was largely over.

I’d like to tell you that she then proceeded to prove me wrong, but I can’t. It’s rare that I ever prefer a recording to a live performance, but I left Bush Hall tonight feeling very much as though I’d rather have spent my evening with a disc. Perhaps it was the opportunity to make such a direct comparison, but live the songs lack something found in abundance on the recording. Despite the obvious skills of Christine Bougie and Barry Walsh, the stripped back arrangements fail to capture the dark emotion and atmosphere although The Matador is a rare exception, carried by the weight of the lyrics and Woman on the Wheel translates well from it’s album version, providing a much needed lift.

That isn’t to say Peters’ skills as a performer don’t match up to her songwriting credentials. I may not agree with her choice of set, finding that even the closing outings of Secret of Life and On a Bus to St Cloud are mightily predictable, but it’s clear that she hasn’t failed to captivate the rest of the audience, who entice her into an unplanned second encore. I just can’t help but feel that If I’d wanted to hear the album in it’s entirety I could’ve saved myself a 3 hour round trip and listened to it from the comfort of my sofa.

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