Kate Rusby performing her Holly Head Tour at The Royal Concert Hall Nottingham on Friday 20th December 2019

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

You know that Christmas is just around the corner when Kate Rusby comes to town. And last night she brought her own brand of fun to the Royal Concert Hall as she and her band of merry musicians performed their fabulous songs.

Sometimes referred to as the Barnsley Nightingale, Rusby has long been one of Britain’s most popular female folk singers with a career that has spanned decades and seen her release eighteen albums. But it is her ability to create an atmosphere of cold nights, warm fires, pints of ale, bawdy banter and above all friendship that seems to be what she is all about.

With simple but elegant staging and with a beautiful backdrop of lighting that only added to the grandeur of the evening, the presence of the animated Ruby the Reindeer was the only nod to Christmas at the beginning of the first set.

Beginning with Hark Hark and a traditional cover of Deck The Halls, Rusby’s voice is so beautifully angelic, captivating and delicate, all wrapped up in a sense of vulnerability that just pulled this audience in. Engaging with them with anecdotes about her life, her family, touring and of course her beloved Yorkshire, she is thoroughly entertaining.

Between stories she delivered the delightful Sunny Bank and Lu Lay and for the lovely I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas, one of her brass section was dressed as a Hippo, before the first set was brought to an end with a traditional Bleak Midwinter.

The second half saw her sing The Holly King before an uplifting Santa Never Brings Me A Banjo had the audience enthusiastically tapping their feet. Enhancing the evening was the incredible musicians, each unbelievably slick on their respective instruments, and just to show how talented they are the audience was treated to three songs just performed by the band, which provided an interlude packed with intricate melodies and sequences from each of them, as all the instruments entwined to make a delicious sound.

A jazzy Winter Wonderland preceded second set closer, B.B.B.B before this audience was treated to one of the most entertaining encores ever. Getting really into the Christmas spirit, Rusby came back on to the stage dressed as a Christmas pudding, her husband, Damien O’Kane as a turkey, other band members were brussell sprouts, a bottle of wine, a Christmas cracker, a carrot and a pig in blanket.

And as Sweet Chiming Bells and a Yorkshire Merry Christmas brought the evening to an end, Rusby is undoubtedly as important a part of Christmas as is a visit from Santa Claus.