Colston Hall, Bristol
Are you feeling bamboozled by Brexit? Tormented and terrified by Trump? Perplexed by the head shaking crassness of Pantomime’s internal monologue? Depressed by the continuous, conspicuous consumption of December’s shoppers in the face of likely global meltdown? You need a tonic. I said, you need a TONIC. And what you need, though you may not yet have realised it, is Yorkshire Tea.
Last night, Kate and Damien brought their brilliant band to Bristol and regaled us, over more than two hours, with a splendid romp through a generous helping of songs from the Christmas albums, “Sweet Bells”, “While Mortals Sleep” (a personal favourite) and “The Frost Is All Over”. We got three different versions of While Shepherds Watched… with different tunes, from different sources, and in one case, different tunes betwixt verse and chorus. Kate introduced each song with a preamble (full of praises to God’s Own County, of course), giving us the song’s provenance; much of the repertoire coming from Yorkshire and from Cornwall, places where the tradition of signin’ in’tpub persists strongly to this day.
After a decent twenty minute interval, during which the merch table was about six deep and the bar was packed, the second half took up where the first left off, and more Christmas cheer than Santa has seen for a long time continued to flow through the auditorium. After a couple of numbers, Kate left the stage and the band, which included a splendid five piece silver section to lend that authentic Barnsley blare to the back-line, were left to give us a rousing instrumental section that really showed their mettle. These guys can really play; with Damien O’Kane in the driving seat there was never any doubt of their chops, and boy did they deliver a belter of a set.
Kate came back to take us to the close, and the audience began to hum and sing along in fine form. We left a little after eleven, warmed to the core with charm and Christmas spirit. I have so say that, as a habitual humbug who needs coaxing towards Crimble each year, this was the best possible start to my year’s end celebration and a timely reminder of the power of word and music to heal the weary soul.
From toddlers to grandparents, really, a very broad church, and all there to wallow in Kate’s homely, cheery abundance of jolliness, and that voice of course. That glorious voice with crisp enunciation that lets you hear every word from the back of the hall, but never has to shout and always stays sweetly in tune.
It made me think..
Treats like last night should be on the National Health. After tonight in Malvern, there are only a half dozen dates left on this side of Christmas; I highly recommend you do your utmost to get to one of them, if they are not already sold out. A splendid time is guaranteed for all. We had a fantastic time.