As mentioned in my earlier post about Emmy the Great’s new album, Virtue, last Wednesday I was lucky enough to see her play a very intimate gig in St. Pancras Old Church. One of the surprise highlights of the evening was the support act, Grace Petrie, and not only because until we arrived we weren’t actually aware there was a support act on the bill.
Trying not to state the obvious here, St. Pancras Old Church is a very small old church not too far away from Kings Cross St. Pancras station. Because of a little confusion about which church the gig was actually going to be held in, we decided to go for a wander at around midday to make sure we were looking in the right place. To be honest, even when we’d found it we weren’t entirely convinced that we were looking at the right building, but when we got back in the evening we were proven right and ended up sitting on some very hard wooden chairs in the smallest gig venue I’ve ever been to. We were lucky enough to get two seats in the second row, and ended up sitting right behind Grace Petrie, something I didn’t actually realise until she got up and stepped onto the stage as the church bells chimed eight (very atmospheric).
Knowing absolutely nothing about the support act and half expecting a band of some sort, I was pleasantly surprised when Grace picked up her guitar, alone, and introduced herself. She opened with a cover of Basement Jaxx’s Romeo and that alone convinced me that we were going to see a great performance. For starters I’d never heard someone cover a Basement Jaxx song with so much heart and soul before. Then there was the fact that her voice sounded so incredible in that tiny church. Emma Lee Moss later joked about the elephant in the room being that they didn’t really need microphones at all and Grace proved that single-handedly. Unfortunately it looks like there’s currently no recording available of the cover, but I’ll add a link at a later date if one becomes available.
Her own tracks showed songwriting talent in abundance, ranging from heartbreak to disappointing jobs and current politics. There are three tracks in particular that stood out to me during her set. Farewell to Welfare plays like an angry letter from all of those dissatisfied with the current state of the United Kingdom. I especially enjoyed the clever lyrics addressed specifically to current Home Secretary and Equalities Minister, Theresa May- “give me a minister for women who can’t represent me” and “Mrs May if I may be so bold as to say your archaic view of family holds no relevance today”. It gets even better but you really should go listen to it to fully appreciate the lyrical genius. The studio recordings available online are fantastic, but live you could just feel the anger and passion in Grace’s voice, and rightly so.
The second track that really stood out was one (whose title I unfortunately can’t remember) about the student protests in November last year, specifically about the boy who threw the fire extinguisher off the roof of the Millbank building (remember that?). The song itself makes an apt point about the hypocritical nature of sending him to prison for over two years, but what caught my interest the most was the fact that I was at that very protest. Granted we were only involved with the peaceful part and none of the violence, but it struck me how relevant Grace’s songs are to all the things we talk and worry about at the moment. There were many of her songs I felt I could relate to, this being one of them. It’s another track I’d love to link you to, but unfortunately there’s no recording available yet. Hopefully soon.
As she herself pointed out, her songs fall into two categories – politics and heartbreak. Baby Blue falls into the latter category. After all the anger of her more political tracks, this one caught me off guard a little. Miss Petrie has a way of singing with such conviction that you can practically feel every emotion she’s trying to convey in her lyrics and in this case you could almost feel the heartbreak in the lines “oh my lover is in the arms of another tonight, I won’t recover, I will not heal with the morning light.” The flawless acoustic guitar accompanying her singing made it all the more bitter-sweet.
After getting home and eagerly looking up this incredibly talented artist, we discovered that Grace Petrie will be playing a few times at Glastonbury next weekend, so with any luck we’ll get the chance to see her again (and without her having to feel guilty about swearing in a church). If you’re going I definitely recommend you try to catch one of her sets. If not then have a look at her website and consider buying one (or all?) of her albums. If we’d have been a bit wiser and actually brought some cash along to the gig then we’d have bought it there and then.
No Spotify links this time around, I’m afraid.
You can listen to all of her available tracks here.
Grace Petrie – Baby Blue (Last.fm)
Grace Petrie – Farewell to Welfare (Last.fm)