As luck would have it Gretchen Peters and her three piece band found their way to High Wycombe for a date on her 20th Anniversary tour. The Old Town Hall is a short walk from Red Guitar Music HQ so it was an opportunity too good to miss to go along and check out the show. The Town Hall is not really that well known on the touring circuit and with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it entrance door (I did and I wasn’t the only one) I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. Luckily the venue, better known locally for the odd play and many a Tea Dance, turned out to be a good choice to hold, what would be a very enjoyable and civilised evening. The team of friendly dark suited ushers were quick to sort out my ticket and direct me to the bar where the local Rebellion brewery helped to get things off to a good start. The attendance for tonight was very impressive and I hope more acts will add High Wycombe to their tour itinerary.
Gretchen Peters took to the stage bang on the advertised time. It doesn’t sound very rock n’ roll but it’s appreciated that acts can be bothered to do things right and aptly, for a 20th anniversary tour, opened with the title track from her debut album ‘The Secret Of Life’ which featured four part vocal harmonies and a nice solo from guitarist Colm McClean. Now call me a cynic but Valentine’s Day (the show took place on Feb 14th) has become a completely commercial exercise to keep greeting card manufactures in business (you used to have to write the things yourself up until the 19th century). Gretchen informed us that if, like myself, you didn’t have a significant other with you most of her songs worked as an ‘anti’ valentine bar one or two which was pretty funny. Highlights of the first set included a superb run through of ‘Love And Texaco’ which Gretchen was pleased that fans had requested for this tour and ‘Blackbirds’ the title track from her award winning 2015 album. Gretchen was, as ever, in fine voice and I found the slower tracks, especially when Conor McCreanor took to playing an upright bass and Barry Walsh switched to the accordion, really drew me in and held my attention. Guitarist Colm McClean stood out as he added subtle colour to the songs with some especially nice use of tremolo to the fore. I’d like to mention the audience here who treated Gretchen and her band with the utmost respect (you could literally hear a pin drop during the songs which was terrific).
After a short intermission Gretchen returned solo to perform ‘Independence Day’. The song was a huge hit for Martina McBride and I was lucky enough to see McBride perform the song in London a few years ago in full country rock mode, Gretchen performs it in a different way, but the mark of a really good song is you can perform it without all the bells and whistles and it will still sound amazing as ably demonstrated here. The second set continued as Gretchen effortlessly pulled out terrific song after terrific song with ‘Five Minutes’ for me still a show stopper and ‘On A Bus To St Cloud’ an obvious audience favourite. An encore was richly deserved and Barry Walsh stood in for Bryan Adams on ‘If You Love Somebody’ before the band let their collective hair down on an extended jam through ‘I Ain’t Living Long Like This’ on which Gretchen sounded amazing and Barry and Colm cut loose to trade solo after solo.
Twenty years into her recording career and Gretchen Peters continues to go from strength to strength and the success of this tour, I’m pleased to say, should guarantee we will see her on our shores again very soon.