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Sunday 3 November 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Grace Petrie (Live Review By Alex Swift)

Grace Petrie & Sara McCreadie, The Moon, Cardiff

It’s a miserable afternoon here in Cardiff, weather-wise, yet no one is sad at the Moon Bar. Grace Petrie, folk protest singer, and LGBT activist has kindly agreed to host a matinee show after the evening show sold out in days. Sadly, this does end up being the only one she’s able to play today, due to illness – my commiserations to fans who had brought tickets to the original event. The atmosphere for the time being though is one of camaraderie, community, with a dash of righteous anger thrown in for good measure.

Sara McCreadie (8) opens, a wordsmith who uses spoken word poems as a tool to spread a message of hope. Her poems focus on the idea of feeling outside of society and learning to love yourself and those around in a world that seems obsessed with imposing stereotypical images. I’d never seen a spoken word artist live before, yet the set really helped me appreciate the art form, as I heard the passionate and heartfelt nature of her words, whether serious, funny or inspiring. A stirring way to begin the afternoon.

Grace Petrie (9) starts the set on a raucous note with, my second favourite song by her, Farewell to Welfare. To my relief, everyone raises their voice to sing along – In case you couldn’t tell folk gigs aren’t my usual territory, though I was really pleased by the sense of community in the room. ‘We’ve got a recession to beat, let’s put more money into the monarchy and a Millionaire in Downing Street, and someone’s got to foot the bill, let’s start with the disabled and the mentally ill’ we chant. As Grace herself says ‘I’ve been starting with that song lately cause I find it really helps separate the wheat the chaff, in case any of you were doubting whether you’re at the wrong show or not’. In spite of her sore throat, she seems on top form, exchanging playful quips with the audience and belting her songs with all the appetite she can muster.

She charges through anti-homophobia song I Do Not Have The Power To Cause A Flood – taking care to note that she had nothing to do with the rain today - an enthusiastic Cold Water Proof Jacket, and an impassioned God Save The Hungry. Even through slower moments like Ivy, and How Long Has It Been? (The Topshop Song), our lone performer brings a level of sentimentality and feeling, that we don’t really notice the slight cracks in her voice. Not every song she plays is about politics, but everything she plays is political if that makes sense. Even in her love songs there’s a socially conscious undercurrent, giving them heart – ‘rest assured’ she says ‘I’m still very cross’. Nowhere is this subtle activism more prevalent than on, my no.1 favourite song by Petrie, Black Tie. Instilled within that song is the idea of being yourself, not caring about those who would judge how you look, act or dress, or make snide comments about you. Belting this song back at the artist, brought a tear to my eye – I found it reassuring to know that I was in a room full of people sharing the same sentiment.

I caught up to Grace after the gig, who’s nice enough to mingle and talk to fans, told her about my Aspergers and about my family members who are on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. We didn’t say much but the fact that she was moved by my story, and myself by hers was more than enough to bring up my confidence, at least for a while. The world is often a miserable place, but if music and morals can help make it better, then this afternoon’s message of hope and change certainly proved reassuring.

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