One of Hertfordshire's most terrific venues was host to Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters on her current UK tour. Coinciding with the release of The Essential Gretchen Peters which celebrates the 20th anniversary of her debut release The Secret Of Live, the set is made up of old favourites and new tracks that are destined to be classic additions to Peters catalogue.
With her guitar in toe, Peters and her backing band including her husband and keyboard player Barry Welsh enchant their audience with a multitude of beautifully poetic songs, The Matador, The Secret Of Life, Woman At The Wheel, When Everything Falls Away; nobody writes about the human condition the way that Gretchen Peters does. She is a competent word-smith who is known for her thoughtful and misanthropic songs. She is, of course, aware of this and treats us to one of her lighter tracks Ring Around The Moon. Blackbird from her critically acclaimed 2015 album of the same name is simply a masterpiece. Peters is a modern day poet proving her worth into the Nashville songwriters Hall Of Fame – although it's a mystery as to why she has yet to win a coveted Grammy Award.
After a well-earned interval, Peters gives us a flavour of her early days hocking her guitar around to tell her stories to the appreciative audiences in the UK with Independence Day and If Heaven. In 2001 she persuaded long time keyboard player, Barry Walsh to join her on tour and he has been on every tour ever since; Peters takes the opportunity to add the quip that 'now we're married, he doesn't have a choice.' Peters plays tribute to supporter and country fan, the late Terry Wogan with a moving rendition of When You Are Old. She invites the rest of the band back on stage proclaiming that she loves playing with a live band more than anything, and it shows; she has a captivating presence on stage, you hang on every word and note that she utters, her work is magnificently enchanting and endlessly beautiful. Five Minutes, On A Bus To St Cloud and the politically charged Idlewild round off a perfect set.
An encore included a paired down version of one of her many collaborations with Bryan Adams over the last two decades, When You Love Someone and a ripping version of I Ain't Living Long Like This. An exhilarating cover version which shook up the sleepy Hertfordshire town with some blazing country rock it certainly ended the night on a high. While the setting may have been seemingly innocuous, the music was extraordinary and would no doubt have stayed with the audience long after the lights had gone out in suburbia.