I’ve always been a little bit in love with Kate Rusby. I think it’s what happens when you grow up listening to someone with such a wonderful voice, and by an odd coincidence she has been singing professionally for almost exactly as long as I’ve been alive.
So, that is why on Friday I found myself making elaborate (and expensive) arrangements to get myself to Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn. After a lot of thought, I rejected the dog-cart idea and took a taxi to the train station.
I had somehow managed to bag a front-row seat, albeit a front-row seat 30 feet from the floor, so I had an unrestricted view of the stage and the tops of people’s heads. The stage was littered with instruments and a string of fairy lights was draped artistically across the feedback monitors. Best of all, there was an elegantly-patterned rug right in the middle, which almost managed to make the whole place feel like a very large living room.
The impression was continued when, after a cheery and Irish half hour with Damien O’Kane and friends, Kate walked onto the stage with a large mug of tea. She gave a chirpy “hello” and exclaimed over the carpet: “I’ve never had a carpet, not never ever before, it’s very posh!”.
I’d been told through an elaborate web of “he said that she told her that her friend said” that the concert was likely to be under an hour long and contain none of Kate’s old and well-beloved repertoire, so I was very pleased to be vindicated in my refusal to believe it. In fact, I would say that at least half the songs were ones I knew already, and half were new to me and a few new to everyone as they aren’t on CDs yet. And as for under an hour long, it was more than an hour before the interval arrived and we were promised a longer second half.
I’d never seen Kate perform in a theatre before, and the atmosphere is very different from a folk festival, but she seemed just as at home on a stage in front of 650 theatre-goers as in front of 200 people in a tent. It was clear she was struggling with a sore throat but she laughed it off, sensibly avoided any sudden high notes and gave a sparkling performance. She told us stories about her daughter Daisy and joked with the band, and I got the feeling that she’d have been singing her heart out even if there had only been 65 of us in the audience. She danced around, pressed her cheek against the microphone and hummed along with instrumental bits.
Kate Rusby has a way of making you feel as though she’s trusting you with her soul as she sings, particularly when she’s singing her own songs. I felt this especially during “Only Hope”, which I hadn’t heard before, and when for her encore she sang “Underneath The Stars” and dedicated it to “our Daisy” the entire audience sighed with approval.
It’s difficult to get a clear image of the evening. I’m just left with an overwhelming urge to smile whenever I think about it, and a buoyant feeling that makes me very glad I went (even if the taxi did cost more than the ticket and the train combined).