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Live / stage review

Peggy Seeger & Calum MacColl

Peggy Seeger performs her 'first farewell' tour for the Abbeydale Picture House crowd.

6 October 2021,
LPP3260
Flying Donkey Events.

Peggy Seeger, at once both very old and aggressively full of life, took the stage at the Abbeydale Picture House, both gingerly and by storm. Helped up the stage steps and to her seat by her son, Calum MacColl, she launched straight into her opener with no hesitation at all.

She started with songs both traditional and her own, about womanhood and about oppression, leaving no room for doubt as to whether her flame has dimmed.

Seeing one of the greats perform live is a grand occasion and a picture house is a place for grand happenings. Under bare stage lighting, in a majestic and shadowy old building complete with balcony, ornamental moulding, and cobwebbed proscenium arch, the stage was set for something grand. And it was.

But the evening with Peggy still felt like an intimate one. It was like being in her living room at cosy a family gathering - telling stories and remembering the old days. Nothing scripted or polished. Just a mother and son having a nice time, doing a little show and tell. Pete Seeger was just “my brother”, Ewan McCall just “my dad”, Alan Lomax just a family friend.

Every song came with its own origin story - either who collected it, who wrote it (or who claimed to have wrote it), or how Peggy came to write it. One that she wrote, ‘Woman On Wheels’, was about a friend at the Greenham Common peace camp and her two physical aides: a wheelchair and a pair of bolt cutters.

Another was a traditional song decrying marriage and the oppression of women, while ‘The Invisible Woman’ depicted the seeming invisibility of a woman grown old. Other songs covered tectonic plates, while ‘How I Long for Peace’ illustrated the world peace she says would come should women have all the power.

She called this tour her ‘first farewell’, and it felt like a goodbye but not a final one, nor a sad one.

Her voice, still powerful, conversational, could only just carry her through a full set. But her lively, fiery, matter-of-fact spirit and sharp tongue did the rest. She might not be able to keep touring forever but she won’t be gone anytime soon.

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