Gig review: Peggy Seeger, Glasgow

Wonderful though Celtic Connections’ centenary tribute to Ewan MacColl was, his wife Peggy Seeger was missed at the celebration. Touring now with her sons Callum and Neill, she teased them for not booking her in time when in reality they were already planning this family jaunt.

Peggy Seegers rapport with her sons came over clearly to the audience during this show of songs old and new

Peggy Seeger - Glasgow Oran Mor

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Ostensibly to promote Seeger’s new album Everything Changes, this show included a great variety of original and traditional material across two sets, from union song If You Want A Better Life to an Old English air played on banjo and autoharp, to Do You Believe in Me, a witty cabaret song, to a protest song about drone warfare sung to the tune of Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns.

These were interspersed with judiciously chosen readings from the cautionary to the uproarious, including Julius Caesar on the perils of patriotism and some marriage counselling for the technological age. A comically old-fashioned extract from a manual for good wifely etiquette was followed by an impish twist on the theme in the sultry, sassy country jazz shape of You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are. Merciless observations on menstruation were complemented by a funny old-time ballad on the same, humorously embellished by her sons on barbershop harmony.

Seeger’s reedy, tremulous voice packed great character and storytelling intrigue, while her natural charm and dignified authority made this an effortlessly intimate affair. The flowing love lament Call On Your Name and sincere and poignant Heading For Home were among the most captivating moments, and there was more grace and beauty from Neill and Calum covering their father’s The Joy Of Living.

Family was the pervasive theme. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face was written by MacColl for Seeger to sing about him, according to one version of events – her version is far more fragile than the finessed melody made famous by Roberta Flack.

Seeger also recited a lovely, simple meditation on her mother, who died in middle age, and played a couple of her brother Pete’s songs, the mellifluous, contented Quite Early Morning and droll Get Up and Go.

Best of all was her warm, wry rapport with her sons. She spoke gratefully of the learning curve of touring with her offspring. “When does old age start?” she inquired. It says something about the engaged and engaging Seeger that at 80 years old she still feels she has something to learn.

Seen on 27.06.15