THE STABLES MILTON KEYNES 20th May 2018 Gretchen Peters is a no doubt a gifted storyteller, often covering subjects that many writers wouldn't touch with a 100ft pole. As a spectator, we get to view the cruel world through a lens that sees the beauty in the beast. Peters' ability to confront painful and controversial issues is matched by her skill at embracing the pains of the human condition and sweetening or rubbing salt into those wounds with a simple turn of phrase.

Atmosphere is another critical component in all of her songs. The first bars of her set sees her playing Arguing With Ghosts with just a half spotlight before the band join in. Immediately we're absorbed into her world. Wichita, a brilliant tale of justified revenge, sits alongside The Matador that makes for some compelling lyrical painting early on. While the focus is on her exceptional new album, Dancing With The Beast, there are of course some of her most famous tracks: Five Minutes, On A Bus To St Cloud and a new addition to the 'best of' catalogue, Blackbirds – another dramatic tale of murder. There are minimal breaks between songs, except for Peters tuning up or jokingly commenting on the evening's rising body count. She does stop however, before Lowlands to talk about how recent political events have divided a nation and how her mother's advice to continue to love each other is the only way through. Even though her songs about depression, aging, death, sex, regret and loss may not be everyone's taste, she thankfully doesn't suffer the same melancholia as Morrissey. Perhaps it's cathartic, or maybe we just enjoy a bit of schadenfreude more than we'd like to admit. Her songs see the love and light that can come from the very depths of darkness and despair. When performed live in an intimate setting, you see the very human side of her music – a woman with a guitar and her band telling stories, conveying emotions and enchanting an audience.

Unlike London venues where many people don't get to see the opening act, the type of hardened music fans that The Stables attracts almost

guarantees that they'll be around for the sup