Live Reviews

Kate Rusby & Damien O’Kane – Knutsford Music Festival: Live Review

Kate Rusby & Damien O’Kane – St John’s Parish Church, Knutsford – 11th June 2022

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Knutsford Music Festival and Folk at the Church, like most of us, have been on a two year wait. But good things come to those for whom patience is a virtue. On the oddoccasion we get to witness a gig in a place of worship, there always seems to be something special. Divine intervention maybe but the occasion is enhanced when it’s a rare performance by Kate Rusby and Damien O’Kane without the regular bandmates.

One that’s most welcome as it not only strips back the sound but also allows us to get an insight into the strong multi-instrumental presence of Damien O’Kane- for once not within touching distance of his trademark banjo – as well as the unique rapport between the two.

Kate’s just winding up a tour that’s celebrated thirty years in the business (the dates for the annual Xmas tour are out now though…), so the evening was made up of visits to the 30 Happy Returns and Hand Me Down albums. The former a star studded collection of songs from her legacy, the latter, the result of a lockdown project where the reinterpretations were of more recent vintage.

Standouts? Well, personal preferences led me back to 2003 with Cruel and the title track from the Underneath The Stars album. Both luscious, beautifully sung with the hint of fragility and accompanied, by Damien’s caress of his sets of stringed things, be they tenor, six string, electric or acoustic (with a rather impressive pedal board at his toes (and heels). That’s not to mention a cheekily risque The Yorkshire Couple, audience participation parts too, which doesn;t appear very often in the set. While UTS (for it shall be forever know) upholds the original songs, Cruel combines traditional/original parts and the likes of Blooming Heather go full trad. complete with singalong opportunity.

The covers/modern reinterpretations sourced The Bangles (with Prince duly noted as the writer of their big hit), Oasis and Bob Marley, the heralding seeing an appearance from Daisy and Phoebe, making it a family event and reminding us all not to worry about a thing – ‘cos every little thing’s gonna be alright.

You may have heard the opinion in the past – to the extent of it becoming boring – but the duo set up really works for me as an alternative to the usual Rusby offerings. If you make enough wishes… Pack up the family and a picnic, make a day of it and bob (or Mike McGoldrick)’s yer uncle.

A word too for the opening set by Catherine & Ciara McGoldrick, Conservatoire students and neices of famed Mancunian Irishman Michael McGoldrick. They were warmly welcomed and delivered a set of jigs, reels, hornpipes, songs and slower airs. Hopefully all of those and more which showed again how traditional music is in some very safe (and very young) hands. The only surprise was that Uncle Mike didn’t dash up the aisle brandishing a whistle to put in an appearance…

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