After an eighteen month hiatus since her last visit to Sage, Gateshead, during her Christmas tour, Yorkshire folkie Kate Rusby made a welcome return to Hall 1. Having waited patiently, her loyal North East fans were rewarded with the honour of sharing the first performance of this year's tour; indeed Kate herself was delighted to be starting out at "...this beautiful venue."
Accompanied on this tour by her band, affectionately referred to by Kate and fans as "the boys," Stevie Burns on mandolin, Nick Cook on accordion, Duncan Lyle on double Bass and of course her husband Damien O'Kane on guitar and banjo, it was clear that Kate was out to have some fun, raring to go on this opening night, and indeed the boys had commenced their 'last note' game earlier than usual! As a band they clearly work together intuitively and never once overpower Kate's vocals, whilst still exhibiting their true musicianship.
Walking out on stage, Kate greeted us with her trademark humour, a pattern which continued throughout the evening, Indeed, at times there was as much laughter as music; I have a suspicion she and Damien could moonlight as stand up comedians if they fancied a change!
Combining songs from her newest release, Ghost, with old favourites, Kate entertained us with stories and anecdotes in between. On more than one occasion, she chatted about her two girls as if we all knew them personally. Impossible as it would be to fit twenty two years of songs into one evening, she succeeded in presenting a flavour of what she is about through songs such as The Daughter of Megan. The Duke and the Tinker, The Jolly Fisherman (from Whitby), Cruel, Ghost (written for the real life spectre in her new house!). Standout tracks awards for the evening would go to The Night Visit (complete with clarification that it wasn't penned about a late night trip to the toilet!), Bring Me A Boat (with it's connection to the River Tyne and a stunning tune written by the great Phil Cunningham. Oddly enough I've seen him on that same stage several times as part of Transatlantic Sessions, and more than once it struck me how well Kate and the boys would be suited to these evenings. How about it Mr C?) We had several sing along invitations, which allowed Kate to deduce that our ideal key was E Flat. We Will Sing is a wonderful upbeat May Day celebration song, reminiscent of some of her Christmas tunes. We Will Walk afforded us an opportunity to impress her with our harmonies, It is always lovely to see a singer genuinely enjoy hearing an audience sing their song back to them.
Every time I see Kate it strikes me as a lovely touch that she leaves the stage to allow the boys a chance to shine as the brilliant musicians they are, joking that she is not permitted to join in, "...for lots of reasons which are entirely valid!" Three tunes followed, penned by Nick and Damien; one nameless, Dancing in Puddles (an hommage to eldest daughter Daisy's fondness for Peppa Pig) and the intriguingly named The Bowel Shifter. Thankfully it didn't appear to have that effect this evening!
Closing her set with Awkward Annie, she seemed surprised by the response, joking that she felt "like a real singer." She left to rapturous applause before returning to give some very genuine thanks to Sage, crew and audience treat us to one last song. Fortunately, she joked, they did know one more so we were lucky! A tongue in cheek drinking song, Martin Says, ended the evening on a high, and left us all with some Sage advice!
I think it is safe to say that a wonderful evening was had by all and we are all hoping that our part in getting this tour off to a great start, earns us a prompt return! I'm fairly certain that when a new date is announced. we will sing as we book our tickets.
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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