It took one minute for something to make Heather Peace laugh and look at the audience, incredulous, before continuing her opening song. I almost feel like that in itself sums up the way she is on stage. She’s light, comfortable, she makes you feel at ease and briefly forget that the woman in front of you is an artist, someone you’ve seen on your TV and listened to on your iPod. She’s just there, standing in front of you with a guitar; sitting at her keyboard; singing her heart out for you with a twinkle in her eye (that’s cheesy, I know, but it’s bloody true) and a smirk that spreads across her features. Honestly? She’s golden.
I can’t say if it’s because the venue is made for this, because I’m more focused, both due to not having had to drag myself there in my post-surgery pain and because she wasn’t wearing the distracting Gay Pirate Casanova shirt of 2012, or because she’s more at ease this time, but the difference between this show and the one I attended last year was astounding. And let me tell you, I thought I was impressed last year.
So this time I took a different approach to the show. I spent last June’s performance focused entirely on the music, almost forgetting I was standing ten feet away from a personal hero of mine and simply appreciated her sound in a way I never had before. This year, I made sure to keep my eyes on her. It paid off. Most of all, I’d say, during ‘Thank God For You’, a song penned for Peace’s girlfriend. While I previously closed my eyes and let this song wash over me, this time I was alert and witnessed what can only be described as a smug (although not unpleasantly so) “damn right, I found her” face. It may not be a phrase you’ll hear too often, but the great thing about an actor/musician is the potential for strength in performance. Heather’s voice is so full of emotion, and she makes it look so easy that you can’t help but question why this fails so spectacularly for many who try it.
Besides her obvious talent, some portion of Heather’s success must be down to the way she interacts with her fans. The banter between songs really is that. It’s not patronising, it’s not fake, and she’s perfectly comfortable laughing at herself or making jokes. For example, when playing new material, Peace joked she may have to change a song’s name, ‘Clown’, due to the recent Emeli Sandé hit of the same name. “I’m really pissed off,” Peace mumbles under her breath with a grin on her face, “bitch.” I’m sure you could say it simply proves her talent as an actor, but in these moments, you could be forgiven for forgetting you’d even paid for this, and just feeling like you were interacting with a friend.
So when she announces that ‘Sabotage’ will be the last song, someone shouts for an encore and she shoots them an exaggerated wink. “We’ve got to go through it” she says, and the way the audience laughs as one is not dissimilar to watching a film or a play. There’s no real surprises in the audience of one of Heather’s shows. (The biggest cheer, disappointingly, came when she removed her jacket – need I say more?) Her fan-base may be exactly what you’d expect from your fellow gig-goers, but it’s clear to see why she has us fans hooked. She has an undeniable effect on her audience, every person lost in her charm as a musician, and oftentimes, simply as a personality.
She takes what I personally consider to be a brave move, and uses her encore to showcase a new song, but it pays off. Her honest, understated performance of ‘House For Your Broken Heart’ makes it a fantastic move, considering her next, final song is what I could only describe as a biggie. After explaining that she wanted to do something camp, “they wouldn’t let me do Calamity Jane”, she laughs, although I’m not entirely sure she was joking, “so I’m doing Diana Ross.” The last four minutes are an unexpected delight of disco and confetti that bring the night to a perfect conclusion.
I’d be foolish not to sing the praises of Heather’s band, an amazing group of musicians so talented you wonder why you’ve never heard of them before. While she’s an undeniably strong talent alone, it’s obvious to me that the addition of this band is what really pushes the live sound and makes it phenomenal. It’s so clear that this is a group of people passionate about their craft, genuinely loving every second of their time on stage.
All in all, Peace is simply fantastic. Her tour is one I’d recommend to everyone, whether they were previously a fan or not.
Personal highlights for me were (no surprises here) ‘Sabotage’, a song which I cannot deny is forever “my Sam & Lexy song” – no explanation needed, I’m sure, and ‘Familiar Creature’. My two favourite songs from the album, and I know they’ll never disappoint, while new songs ‘The Darkest Day of Your Life’ and ‘Dance(d?) With The Devil’ were other favourites from the night, and have been being hummed quietly to myself since I left the venue. Another definite highlight of the evening for me was the story of a teenage Heather ditching school for the day to audition for Les Miserables. Just another simple story that connects you that little bit more to the artist, who’s clearly still a Bradford girl impressed by the fact that everybody’s there to see her.
I have many deeply personal reasons that this show meant so much to me (this could not have been at a better time, and I do feel like in my heart I owe Heather the biggest “thank you” I could possibly manage) and although I admit that it’s not unusual for me to walk away from any concert feeling inspired, that feeling of inspiration was precisely what I needed last night, and Peace and her band, along with supporting act Red Sky July, delivered.