Refined, Restrained, and Just About Perfect: Gretchen Peters at the Franklin Theatre
Downtown Franklin, Tenn., provided the perfect setting last Friday night for Gretchen Peters’ album release party/performance. Like the record, the town’s Main Street is charming, pristine, and just a little bit out of the way. And, also like the record, the performance was refined, restrained, and just about perfect.
As she made her way through almost all of Blackbirds, Peters and her band (Barry Walsh on piano, Doug Lancio on guitar, Dave Francis on bass, Nick Buda on drums, and David Henry on cello and mandolin) did an amazing job of recreating the subtle sophistication of the recording through controlled crescendos and understated solos. When you’re as good as this group is, you don’t need to show off. Still, Lancio got to step out a few times, most notably on “When All You Got Is a Hammer,” “Everything Falls Away,” and “Black Ribbons.”
And, although Peters doesn’t have a big, soaring voice, there’s an elegance to her writing that surrenders the need for that kind of drama. It might be fun to hear what a more powerful singer would do with a song like “When All You Got Is a Hammer,” but that’s superfluous to the potency of the tune. On the other side of that coin is a song like “The Cure for the Pain” which could easily come off as maudlin in another’s hands. Peters, though, teases out the sentimental while avoiding the sappy.
Peters also dug a bit deeper into her catalog, pulling “The Matador,” “Five Minutes,” and “Woman on the Wheel” from 2012’s Hello Cruel World, the latter of which gave Buda a chance to really show off his just-right touch as the rest of the band stretched way out. Of course, she also threw in “Independence Day,” although Peters’ solo piano rendering is a far cry from Martina McBride’s peppy, produced hit. She closed the set with “To Say Goodbye” before an encore of “On a Bus to St. Cloud.”
With all the critical acclaim it’s racking up, Blackbirds is set to give Peters a bigger stage. Hopefully, then, she’ll get to treat more audiences to the rare delight of hearing her perform with a band.
Photo by Rebecca Bauer.