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Kate Rusby

Venue: The Sage
Town: Gateshead
Date: 21/12/19

A little shoutout first, if I may, to the Sheffield carol singers from the Cumberland Arms pub, who, once again entertained us pre show, on the concourse, under the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, by the warmth of the fire. A lovely start to a very festive evening.

It was also a treat to meet some of the Rusby family at the merch table, including Kate's two daughters, about whom we have been told countless stories since the eldest was born. Apparently they were last at Sage Gateshead as babies.

A Kate Rusby Christmas show has, in recent years, become something of an annual tradition and is a night that I very much look forward to in the lead up to Christmas. Judging by a full to capacity Hall 1, this is a feeling shared by many.

Kate was clearly elated to be back at one of her favourite venues, telling us she could think of no better place for the final show of the tour, and indeed the year, as she walked onto a very festive looking stage, adorned with fairy lights and a decorated microphone.

Ruby 2, the stage reindeer, made a welcome return, nodding head, flashing lights and all. I won't spoil the story of her acquisition and Ruby 1's retirement for those who haven't yet heard it.

Kate grew up in Sheffield, exposed from a young age to Yorkshire carol sings in local pubs. To paraphrase Charlotte Bronte, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Kate Rusby is obsessed with Christmas; indeed for her new and fifth Christmas CD, she chose the name "Hollyhead," to describe herself and those like her.

As usual, Kate's band took her every note to a different level with their stunning musicianship; we also got to see them play some 'manly tunes' led by Damien, when Kate gave them centre stage. This talented posse comprised Damien O'Kane on guitar, electric tenor guitar and banjo, Steven Byrnes on bouzouki, Nick Cooke on diatonic accordion and sleigh bells Duncan Lyall on double bass and the very distinctive moog. Not to forget, of course, the fabulous Brass Boys, who added the quintessential festive, almost jazz, sound. We even had Kate on her mini tombone!

Watching the banter between herself and the boys as she affectionately calls them. She clearly thinks the world of them, and they her. Her banter with the audience is a joy, as in her down to earth manner, she regaled us with stories.

We were offered our first live encounter with these new songs; ; Salute the Morn, Christmas is Merry, In the Bleak Midwinter, the ominous sounding Lu Lay and The Holly King, penned by Kate herself, with some beautiful imagery. The standout of the new album however, was Hippo for Christmas, complete with Nippo, aka Nick dressed as a hippo.

Of the well loved songs, standouts included Big Brave Bill (who began life as a bedtime story and now finds himself on another adventure at an infamous Barnsley roundabout), Hail Chime On, , Santa Never Brings me a Banjo, Let the Bells Ring and Sweet Chiming Bells.

I must insist, after Kate's erroneous introduction, that her next album feature her new title; Wonter Winterland.

All too soon, it was all over for another year, but what a beautiful way to celebrate the winter solstice and welcome in Christmas. Thanks to all and Happy Christmas. Here's to a happy, healthy, music filled 2020 for us all.

Here's hoping we can do it all again next year…Kate?

Helen Mitchell

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