Gretchen Peters, King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Gretchen Peters played a strong set to a large and appreciative crowd in Glasgow last night. The show was at the unusual venue of the King’s Theatre, more known for stage shows than musical acts, as part of the Celtic Connections festival.

A good support set came from husband and wife folk duo The Honey Dewdrops. Kagey Parrish and Laura Wortman hail from Virginia and are now based in Baltimore. Their mainly downbeat songs are full of rich harmonies and livened by some excellent acoustic guitar work. Highlights of their short set were The Loneliest Song, described as a sad song about sad songs, and a good cover of Hank Williams’ Rambling Man.

Much of Gretchen Peters set came from her most recent album Dancing With The Beast. The often dark songs feature strong female characters surviving against the odds, the beauty of her voice contrasting with the dark pictures her lyrics create. Opening with Wichita and Disappearing Act, she soon had the crowd on her side and the applause was strong after every track. Truckstop Angel followed and then the exquisite Say Grace, described by Peters as the one ray of hope on a dark album.

Peters has a confident stage presence and although there wasn’t too much chat between songs, she did recall her first ever Glasgow show back in 1996 in King Tuts’ – a very different venue. The superb Lowlands followed, introduced as a song begun on election night that describes the growing divisions in American society.

Half way through the set Peters introduced the Southern Fried String Quarter to the mix: four fine musicians she first played with in Perth last year. Their strings added tremendous depth to Arguing With Ghosts and to the chorus of older song The Secret Of Life. Other tracks featured from Peters’ extensive back catalogue included dark ballad Blackbirds and the tender When You Love Somebody.

The set closed all to soon with On A Bus To St Cloud, the crowd forgiving an uncharacteristic false start, and an excellent version of To Say Goodbye with a lovely extended instrumental ending. An encore was demanded and Gretchen Peters quickly returned to the stage to end the night with love song When You Are Old.

Gretchen Peters has visited Glasgow many times over her career and this was another fine show from an artist of real substance. Her songwriting is top class, often challenging society’s norms, and her performance was excellent, leaving the crowd entertained and with a great deal to think about.

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