Review: Gretchen Peters – The Apex, Bury St Edmunds

With a title like Hello Cruel World, Gretchen Peters’ tour, named after her latest album, was never going to be an evening of riotous laughter. Surprisingly though it does provide an uplifting evening, fuelled by Peters’ infectious warmth and personality.

When any artist has such an expansive back catalogue as Peters –seven hit albums and songwriting credits for such legends as Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Neil Diamond and Bryan Adams – there’s always that quandary of how much new material you mix in with the classics. Here Peters’ has no such dilemma. She starts with the first (and title) track from her latest album and proceeds to run through all the tracks from that work before ending with a couple of older pieces.

Peters’ explains she is keeping the talk in between songs brief, to enable as much music as possible to be squeezed into her 90 minute set, but the emotional connection to the material becomes apparent and she can’t help but give us some insight into the creation of the album.

There is a real narrative in the Cruel World material. Life portrayed in these songs may be tough but there’s also hope. Peter’s rich, honey-soaked voice soars from the opening notes and draws you into these musical tales. There’s real richness here in tone and range that demonstrates Peter’s impressive vocal skills alongside her musicianship and song writing credentials.

It’s also a performance that showcases her vocal control – able to belt out across the auditorium when required before dropping back to a soft, bare whisper.

There’s a haunting, graceful air to the music that belies the hardship underneath but it serves to draw the audience into Peters’ world.

There’s no big support band here – her husband Barry Walsh on piano and rhinestone clad accordion and multi-instrumentalist Christine Bougie playing lap steel, electric guitar and percussion. It’s a simple backing that provides just the right level of support.

As Peter’s moves onto older material she finishes the evening with an encore of The Rolling Stones’ Wild Horses, complete with audience communal singing. It may initially seem an odd choice of finale but again it serves to showcase Peters’ undisputed vocal skills and musicianship. Peters’ seems genuinely moved by the support she gets from her audience but based on this showing, here is one singer that deserves the spotlight just as much as for those bigger names she writes so many classic songs for.

Originally written for The Public Reviews

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