Sunday 30 December 2012


Live Review

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Taking a leaf out Radio 4's I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, the Yorkshire songstress opened her Christmas concert with, what turned out to be one of several versions dished up on the night, While Shepherds Watched to the tune of Ilkley Moor.

Kate Rusby at Symphony Hall, Birmingham 
picture copyright Danny Farragher
Strangely enough it worked with Kate's soft but powerful tones soaring over the packed hall.
She then moved to another traditional song for the festive period, First Tree In The Green Wood, which was a much softer, slower version than fellow folk artist Maddy Prior had performed earlier in the week, but it was nonetheless enjoyable for that.
The concert was the last of Kate's Christmas and indeed 2012 tour and with mug in hand she had warmed up the Birmingham audience and moved on to sing a list of songs from the tradition of festive pub singing from her native South Yorkshire which led on to Hark, Hark, What News? - a more up tempo song in which she was able to exercise the upper end of her range.
Drawing from her 20 album, which is celebrating 20 years of being on the folk circuit, she donned her guitar and sang Home a soft ballad given a Christmas feel and showed the tremble in her singing and what seemed to be a smokey quality to her voice.
More than ably assisted by Ed Boyd, Julian Sutton, Duncan Lyle and Damien O'Kane she moved into the traditional Holly & The Ivy but gave it a jaunty non-traditional with no "quar" - that's choir to us non-Yorkshire folk.
Kate Rusby and "the boys" copyright Danny Farragher
She then gave us a rendition of a tune she learned in the pubs of south Yorkshire, Kris Kringle, which is fanciful ditty about the fun and excitement which surrounds the arrival of Christmas and was accentuated wonderfully by crisp playing of the trumpet from the brass section.
Walk The Road seemed to be steeped in folk tradition and which had almost a Scottish feel about it but with, as you would expect, more than a hint of "God's own county".
Kate thrilled her audience with Little Town of Bethlehem which came with a lovely accordion intro and was a wonderfully simple version of the song which highlighted Kate's voice and was finished off perfectly by the brass players.
She treated her army of fans to a few less well known but certainly traditional tunes such as Here We Come a Wassailing which had a bouzouki opening with a fast tempo interspersed with Kate displaying a lighter tone in her voice, then Poor Old Horse which tells of a boxing day ritual of dressing up as a horse.
Drawing again from her latest album she sang I Courted A Sailor which had sea shanty undertone and ended with a lilting accordion interlude.
Kate Rusby who is celebrating 20 years on the folk circuit,
picture courtesy of
Then came one she learned as a schoolgirl, Seven Good Joys of Mary, which was a toe-tapping counting song giving a potted history of the Holy Family.
Diadem showed Kate exercise the deeper range and almost had a scratchiness to her voice. Kate then left the stage to "the boys", for them to take over with a trilogy of The Ricky Road To Ruin, Goodbye Mr Bun's Sarnie Shop and an Irish Tune. This gave Kate's hubby Damian a chance to show off his banjo skills into which the lads threw in a medley of Christmas favourites and went out to a stomping beat accented by the brass section perfectly.
To finish off there was Sweet Bells a shepherds' tune which had a distinct oompah feel to it and then she gave us the third version of the shepherds' carol with Chime On which this time was more staccato than the previous versions and finally ending with The Wren which has a brass opening reminiscent of Open All Hours but was coloured in wonderfully by Kate's powerful voice coming over the top. Kate will be coming back to Birmingham in 2013 to headline Moseley Folk Festival which runs from August 30 to September 1.

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