Kate Rusby performing her At Christmas Tour at The Royal Concert Hall Nottingham on Sunday 21st December 2014

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

It’s that time of the year to grab a mince pie, fill your glass with egg nog, and head off to The Royal Concert Hall to join Kate Rusby and her fabulous backing band on the last night of her ‘At Christmas’ tour. Reviving the South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire pub tradition of singing carols from Armistice Day to New Year’s Day, she received a huge welcome as she walked on stage, grinning and warmly greeting the audience as she held aloft her obligatory Yorkshire Tea mug.

With no support act, Rusby commanded the attention of this adoring audience for a two hour set, which included choice cuts from her two seasonal albums; While Mortals Sleep and Sweet Bells with added tracks from her new album, Ghost.

Her set was relaxed and informal as she engaged us with stories of her family, and the origins of her music. Enthralling us in her broad Yorkshire accent, the first half of her set included such delights as Home, Kris Kringle and an alternative version of Holly And The Ivy. Whilst you would probably recognise the words to some of the songs, though not the tune, or perhaps the verses but not the chorus; you would certainly enjoy every number as this Nottingham audience clearly did.

A great instrumental session of banjo driven Christmas and traditional songs were enhanced by the awesome brass quintet. Rusby’s husband, the much acclaimed musician and singer, Damien O’Kane on guitar and banjo, kept the momentum going. The second set included Little Town Of Bethlehem, Sweet Bells, The Holmfirth Anthem and We Wish You A Merry Christmas. There was even a version Of While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks By Night sung to the Yorkshire anthem, Ilkla Moor Baht’At.

But for me the outstanding number of the evening was The Lark, which had the audience holding their breath until the final note.

Many of her songs are still sung at Christmas in select bars north of Watford and Rusby managed to recreate that atmosphere of cold nights, warm fires, pints of ale, bawdy banter and above all friendship. It was all fabulously entertaining and truth be told, she could have sung the contents of my Christmas shopping list and made it sound magnificent; such was her presence.