This is the third time I’ve seen Heather Peace perform live, and she just keeps getting better and better. Probably best known as an actress (she’s currently starring in the BBC1 drama Waterloo Road), Peace is also a classically-trained musician who ought not to be dismissed as just another actress who can turn out a few good tunes. On this occasion she was brilliantly supported by a four-piece band who filled the large space of the Islington Assembly Hall for just over an hour with many of the popular songs from the two albums she has released to date. We were also treated to some new material, as well as one or two characteristically energetic crowd-pleasing covers.
Peace is open about the fact that the inspiration for her songs comes from her own personal experiences, and clearly this works for her as she is a talented lyricist. On the night she performed darker tracks such as Sabotage and Better Than You with real emotion and vulnerability, lending the words even greater power. She gave us soulful ballads like You’re For Keeps and Thank God For You, both of which celebrate the redemptive power of love, and Peace performed them with a big smile on her face, demonstrating that she has moved on from the difficult times which informed her second album Fairytales. Much of the truth of Peace’s music and lyrics comes from the fact that she isn’t afraid to confront the fact that life isn’t a fairytale: we all experience periods of despair and times of joy and many of us are or have been involved in harmful relationships that we find it hard to break free from, but that only makes the good times even sweeter.
Throughout the evening Peace moves effortlessly between keyboard and guitar, demonstrating her ease and facility on both, chats with members of the audience and with her band, and clearly enjoys every minute of it, and her enthusiasm is infectious. This combined with her intensely personal lyrics and honest performance means she connects with her audience on a real emotional level.
Peace performed about five new tracks on the night, giving us a chance to see how her composition is developing. House For Your Broken Heart was a big, emotional ballad, Danced With The Devil highlighted other musical influences on her writing, while Clown demonstrated her talent for combining humour with sadness. Peace’s new material is still weighted towards the slightly sombre overtones that characterise Fairytales, but there’s no doubt that the new tracks are just as strong and it’s great to see how she’s growing as a composer and lyricist, and she performed each song with her customary depth of feeling.
To round the evening off we were given a real barnstorming version of Diana Ross’s I’m Coming Out, which had everyone dancing, cheering and singing along, bringing the evening to the perfect end.