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St. David’s Hall, Cardiff, Tue 12 Dec

As the audience took their seats at St. David’s Hall it was clear that this was to be a festive, cozy, family-friendly evening – couples around this reviewer discussing endless Christmas shopping dilemmas and successes, displayed Nativity photos of the grandchildren on their phones and compared Christmas jumpers. Imagine the cinnamon whiff of a thousand festive John Lewis commercials directed by Richard Curtis in a snowglobe.

So if the task for this evening was to take a festively inebriated crowd already out of their minds on Yuletide cheer and then take them to dangerous levels of seasonal mirth, then Kate Rusby and her band were the people to do it. The Barnsley Nightingale fluttered on to the stage wearing a sparkly dress of stars enthusiastically eager to begin her annual popular Christmas show, this time promoting new album Angels And Men. This release is a tribute of sorts to the Yorkshire tradition of singing carols in pubs; Kate later on explained she had grown up listening to these songs and they had seeped into her being via osmosis.

The band, including her husband Damien O’Kane on guitar, were fantastic, including the Brass Boys brass section and some aural treats such as a bouzouki, accordion and even a Moog. This was a perfect accompaniment to Kate’s honey-soaked voice as they played a magical set of modern and reinterpreted Christmas songs. Highlights included a folksy Let It Snow, which offered a soupçon of brassy flourishes that added to the warm glow of the evening like a lovely electric blanket. Apart from the two erudite members of the audience who knew their Welsh musical history and correctly shouted out thus, we all learned from Kate before she performed the song, that the Christmas carol Deck The Halls originated from a Welsh melody and belonged to the carol Nos Galan.

And let’s not forget Kate’s between-song chatter, which skillfully manoeuvred between tales of beatific domesticity with the hubby and kids to her impressions of Usain Bolt instructing us to the geographical location of Barnsley. Kate Rusby, the best thing from South Yorkshire to arrive in Cardiff since Neil Warnock.


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