On 20th May 2023, Gretchen Peters’ Farewell Tour reached Birmingham Town Hall. The date will be her last in Birmingham, England. She was supported by Kim Richey and joined by her usual European touring band – Barry Walsh on piano and accordion, Conor McCreanor on bass (upright and guitar), and Colm McClean on electric guitar.
Kim Richey didn’t disappoint with her set. She played seven songs and provided nice anecdotes, entertainment with tuning issues, and the lighting of her set was interesting – including an unexpected spot pointed at her at the end of her penultimate song, providing an additional talking point. Kim’s music fits beautifully with Gretchen’s, showing why she has supported her so often, and reminding those who have not checked out Kim’s music already why they should.
Gretchen took to the stage to applause from the audience. Although the date was not the usual sellout I am used to seeing for her shows, the crowd was a good one. Starting her set with Blackbirds – from her 2015 album of the same name – Gretchen had the crowd in the palm of her hand. Following up with Witchita – from her 2018 album Dancing with the Beat – the mood was set. Gretchen does not take prisoners with her lyrics, especially when writing about what could be seen as contentious subjects, and Witchita is one such example. The instrumentation that goes with it makes for a great song.
Gretchen and her band were in fine form, her voice sounding as great as ever, and the boys didn’t play a wrong note – or at least not to this reviewer’s uneducated ear. Barry’s accordion provided just the right mood, especially during Matador.
There are a few songs that have to be played during a Gretchen Peter’s concert – her equivalent to R.E.M.s Man on the Moon and Everybody Hurts – and they were played together near the end of the main set and did not disappoint. On A Bus To St. Cloud and When You Are Old were many fans’ introductions to her music, and they sound as great today as they did when they were released in 1996. Sandwiched between them was Five Minutes – which holds up just as well – completing the trio. Maybe due to the average age of the audience – or perhaps the seated “grown up” setting – there were few people audibly singing along, but I’m sure they were in their heads.
Gretchen’s between-song chatter was perfect, and the inclusion of Kim Richey on backing vocals for some of the songs worked beautifully. If there was anything wrong with the show, it would be that it was too short, with many great songs not performed. But at 90 minutes it’s hard to justify such a complaint. Not everyone has Bruce Springsteen’s stamina or boldness to continue playing past curfews.
There are still a few dates left on the Farewell Tour, so if you were in two minds about whether to see Gretchen live, get to a show if you can.
23 MAY – CARDIFF, St David’s Hall
24 MAY – SWINDON, Wyvern Theatre
25 MAY – EXETER, Corn Exchange
26 MAY – LONDON – Cadogan Hall
You can find more photos from the gig here.