Gretchen Peters and Kim Richey at City Varieties, Leeds

Gretchen Peters and Kim Richey
City Varieties,
Monday 29th August 2022

This concert was a first for me in a couple of ways.
The venue; The City Varieties Music Hall was a big part of my childhood in the 1960’s as it was the venue for a variety programme that my parents loved; so when Gretchen Peters announced her imminent ‘retirement’ from touring and with no local concert on the agenda, Mrs Magpie and I decided on a trip South (98 miles …. but still South).
When I was a travelling salesman I went to a few gigs in towns around the UK; but spending my own money on fuel, a romantic meal and a hotel out of my own money was certainly a first …. but seeing Gretchen Peters for the *last time would certainly be worth it.
As usual Kim Richey was the opening act; and as we are both huge fans we were in the venue in plenty of time for her first song; which can’t be said for perhaps 50% of the Sold Out audience …. what’s that all about? Even if Kim had been a young teenager starting out on her career surely either courtesy or just plain ‘supporting live music’ should have made for a fuller auditorium?
Maybe it’s a ‘Leeds thing’?
Whatever; Kim came out to tumultuous applause and with a smile and a wave went straight into Come Around; or at least I think it was. Her guitar playing was certainly loud enough but the vocals patchy; which was pointed out by a lone voice at the end. Kim apologised but hadn’t realised; and the sound guy turned his dial; making the rest of the set very nearly crystal clear.
The second song of the evening was my favourite of hers; Pin a Rose; but I hadn’t heard the story of how it came about before; which is one of the things we love about seeing singer-songwriters in concert. I won’t spoil it for you; but it involves a co-write with one of my other favourite’s and the phrase came about when Kim heard her (and my own) favourite TV detective use it one night!
With only 45 minutes to play with; Kim’s normally charming song intros were kept to a minimum, allowing more time for I Don’t Carry Much Regret and Every Time You Come Around the element of surprise for many in the room.
By the time we got to Wild Horses my notes say ‘fantastic venue – amazing acoustics’ and with the benefit of hindsight; are still true …. the acoustic were simply amazing.
That song, from her most recent album EDGELAND, was followed by an online request for Those Words We Said from her 1995 debut; Those Words We Said, which I’d not heard before and was simply stunning.
The all too short appearance closed with a song Kim sang on her Opry debut; a whispered version Kris Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming Down that came close to having a standing ovation when it ended!
Thirty minutes later Gretchen Peters and her three piece band; including the legendary Barry Walsh on piano and piano-accordion alongside an electric guitarist and bass player made their collective way onto the stage.
Although I was at the front of the stage, I was having problems with the new lens on my camera so couldn’t concentrate on the opening song; therefore missing the title …. sorry.
Camera sorted and no longer panic stricken; thoroughly enjoyed the very relevant Wichita; which featured some staggeringly sharp electric guitar interludes to accentuate the power of the chorus.
Next was a personal Favourite; The Matador which featured some beautifully mournful accordion from Barry, which sent a shiver down my spine.
Although she had a new Live Album to promote; Gretchen still went ‘off piste’ tonight, by including a variety of songs from throughout her career; several which don’t appear on said Double Album.
Many of the songs tonight, we know like the back of our hands (Say Grace and Blackbirds spring to mind) but others stretch the memory banks (When You Love Someone and the duet with Kim Richey Guadalupe) while others the audience may have been hearing for the very first time tonight; of these I’d forgot how wonderful Love and Texaco from 2000 was/is a genuine heartstring tugger; as was To Say Goodbye from 2007!
Highlights were certainly far too many to mention; although Bus to St. Cloud and Five Minutes both got 5 stars in my notes; which is as good as it gets.
Of course there were two ‘contractually obliged’ encores; and both left me with something in my eye (?) … England Blues; which I didn’t recognise; but had the lines
Got my hand on the wheel and I’m drivin’ on the left hand side
Hold on, baby, it’s gonna be a hell of a ride
God save the queen and the BBC
They can’t do nothin’ ’bout you and me

and more appropriately for me ….
Holed up in a hotel room on the river Tyne
Just me and my baby and a do not disturb sign
24 hours by the hotel clock
Hotel maid goin’ knock, knock
Holed up in a hotel room on the river Tyne

Which I really need to buy ASAP!
Then the others left the stage, leaving Gretchen and Barry to perform a spellbinding rendition of When You Are Old; which was …. well….. you know…… the most wonderful way to close a wonderful show.

*Subsequently a 2023 UK Tour has been announced and sure enough Gretchen has added Sage Gateshead; which is on my doorstep.


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