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Kate Rusby – Hand Me Down: Live Review

Kate Rusby offers a thoroughly professional production allowing us, despite being as far from the stage as we could possibly be, to feel ever so close.

Streamed on Saturday 10th April

Recorded at CAST Theatre, Doncaster

Returning to CAST Theatre in Doncaster, the scene of their Happy Holly Day stream at Christmas, Kate Rusby and her very merry ensemble hit the Easter period with equal and equivalent joys. You could feasibly argue that they kept it Easter themed. The original Easter Sunday was surely one of the biggest comebacks in history. How appropriate, then, that Kate and co. should give us their lockdown covers album, bringing twelve songs back and giving them new life. It’s a sign of the times that this was effectively the ‘album launch’ show (the first full live performance) for something that was released on August 14th last year (our review here).

Apart from being a triumph, which it undoubtedly was, the show had moments where we felt like we were listening to pop rather than folk. Days had a sunny Jack Johnson funk to it, enhanced by Damien O’Kane’s tenor electric guitar line and Duncan Lyall’s Moog break. Sometimes, like on Days, Manic Monday and on Carolina In My Mind, Kate’s voice felt pleasingly evocative of the original vocal. At other times, the difference between the cover and the original was what pleased, like on Love Of The Common People and, unsurprisingly, on Three Little Birds.

The excellent fellowship associated with a Rusby recital was fully evident. Each song had a nostalgic tale to tell. We had reminiscences of Kate’s early days on the school bus, plus show-and-tell tales of sentimental items, such as a colourful knitted jacket worn by Kate as a child (to accompany the song True Colours) and Kate’s well-loved, one-eyed cuddly panda from the same era (Cure nerds can make their own links here). Fellowship extended across the Atlantic, as honorary family member, Ron Block (Damien’s partner-in-crime on the excellent album, Banjophony) joined them on two tracks from his home studio via the magic of video.

Having begun with Manic Monday and with Friday I’m In Love providing the penultimate song in the set, surely the encore was going to involve Saturday Night by Whigfield, Morrissey’s Every Day Is Like Sunday or Craig David’s Seven Days? The answer was more straightforward than this, but still entertaining. In a similar vein to their Christmas extravaganza, the team fully committed to fancy dress, 80s-themed this time, to reprise Manic Monday. Damien went ‘full Hulk’, making a passable mini-Lou Ferrigno. Duncan’s Marvel Avenger locks were replaced by a wig that evoked memories of Des Barnes from Neighbours. Kate was resplendent in a lurid netting tutu and her own mighty hairpiece that was very much Toyah-meets-Kim Wilde-meets-Tina Turner-meets-Pat Sharpe.

Susanna Hoffs (to be known henceforth as “Actual Bangle”) provided a cheery message of support and encouragement to “get up and dance.” The repetition of the opening track as encore was further justified by the appearance of Junior ‘Banglers’ Daisy and Phoebe (Kate and Damien’s talented children) on backing vocals, giving us a tantalising snapshot of the future family band, perhaps? The end credits played beside 1980s Rusby home video footage. It was infused with vibrant happiness, the best thing you can ever hand down through generations of any family.

As much as this was a thoroughly professional production, it possessed such a homeliness. This allowed us, despite being as far from the stage as we could possibly be, to feel ever so close.

You can re-watch the show until 22nd May here.

Watch the lockdown version of Kate Rusby’s wonderful interpretation of Friday I’m In Love below.

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