Kate Rusby at Christmas review: Her voice is so beautifully angelic, captivating and delicate

Kate Rusby. Picture: David Lindsay

Kate Rusby. Picture: David Lindsay - Credit: David Lindsay

English folk singer-songwriter Kate Rusby brought her Christmas show to Norwich Theatre Royal last night to help get the festivities going.

Sometimes referred to as the Barnsley Nightingale, Kate Rusby has long been one of Britain's most popular female folk singers with a career that has spanned decades and seen her release 18 albums.

Twenty-five plus years of writing, arranging and recording has given Kate a sharp eye for a subtle detail and a voice that's keenly honed.

With over a decade of festive music under her belt, Kate's Christmas concerts perpetuate the tradition of Yorkshire carols as she aims to evoke the spirit of a crowded pub at each of her shows.

For over two hundred years, from late-November to New Year's Day, North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire communities would congregate on Sunday lunchtimes in their local public house to belt out their own versions of familiar carols. These were the songs that were often frowned upon by the church in Victorian times as they were deemed 'too happy'. This concert run sees Rusby setting out on a mission to share these songs once again with the whole of the UK.

Joining her on stage was a hugely talented backing band made up of Damien O'Kane (acoustic guitars, electric guitars and banjo), Steven Byrnes (bouzouki and guitar), Nick Cooke (diatonic accordion), Duncan Lyall (double bass and Moog), Josh Clarke (drums and percussion) and her brass quintet.

The staging was simple yet elegant with a beautiful backdrop of lighting and projections that only added to the grandeur of the evening.

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It wouldn't have mattered at all if we had been in a small, dingy and dark venue as Kate Rusby has a way of making you feel at home. Her conversation between songs was friendly and informative as she explained all about where each song had derived from and what it was that they loved about each of them.

This show is clearly born from deep rooted tradition and heritage and has a real sense of culture as we are introduced to versions of carols that some of us may have never heard.

Her voice is so beautifully angelic, captivating and delicate all wrapped up in a sense of vulnerability that just pulls you in. It's an almost humorous contrast to her heavy Yorkshire accent and ditsy mannerisms during conversation but just makes it all that more surprising when you hear her sing.

It's such a striking contrast but hugely charming making her inevitably likeable and fascinating to watch perform.

She's an absolute treasure and did a fantastic job of putting together a show that was the perfect balance of music, conversation and a learning experience in terms of the stories that came with each song.

The evening, of course, wouldn't have been anywhere near as good if it hasn't been for the incredible musicians that took to the stage alongside her, each unbelievably slick on their respective instruments.

During the second half of the show we were treated to three songs performed just by the band and this was when we really got to see them shine. This interlude was packed with intricate melodies and sequences from each of them as all the instruments entwined into an incredible driving force that had you tapping your foot throughout. Every single one of them is an absolutely phenomenal performer and so worthy of being up there performing to adoring audiences.

Last night's show also provided perhaps the best encore I have ever witnessed in my life. Kate Rusby and her band returned to the stage dressed as sprouts, a bottle of wine, a pig in a blanket, a Christmas pudding, a Christmas cracker, a carrot and a blow up turkey to treat the audience to two final tracks.

It had everyone's sides splitting as Damien O'Kane struggled to put his guitar on over his inflated turkey tummy - definitely something you don't get to see every day.

Until last night I hadn't felt very festive but Kate Rusby did a great job of igniting the Christmas spirit in me. It was a really spectacular show and one that I would recommend anyone who loves Christmas to go and see.

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