Sitting at the far end of Denmark Street, once home of Britain’s own Tin Pan Alley where popular tunes were churned out, St Giles’ Church is the perfect setting for James Yorkston. Perhaps St Giles is the patron saint of well thought of, but essentially niche male singer songwriters, who have a small, but avid following. Or maybe that’s St Jude.

Still, on a bitter Christmas evening as office parties lurch around the West End, Denmark Street seems a rather magical place; everything from cheap guitars for wannabes to vintage guitars cashed in by has-beens.

Inside St Giles, it is just as magical a scene. I find myself stuck up in the Gods, though maybe that’s not the right phrase in a church. Anyway, it’s not until I descend to the back of the pews towards the end that I realise just how awful the sound was upstairs. I thought the fact I could not understand a word Yorkston sang was his fault, rather than the Church’s Victorian architects who were so short sighted as not to envisage the need to design acoustics that would suit twenty first century amplified music.

Still muted vocals apart, Yorkston delivered a humorous, warm and thrilling evening in what has become an annual ritual of London Christmas concerts. At times Yorkston plays for laughs, hamming up and being self deprecatingly ‘sexy’ with hip gyrations that would not have bothered 50s censors. The rest of the time, endless retuning of a guitar aside, he delivers an assured, masterly performance of his songs, many from his recent celebrated album 'When the Haar Rolls In'.

Alone, holding the audience rapt with his fullsome sounding guitar and witty lyrics he is great. When his band, the Athletes appear, with accordion, violin and clarinet backing him the music ascends into something more inspired. Yorkston seems to know and appreciate this. He always makes a fuss of the band and, after an extended solo by his violinist he breaks off to begin the applause himself. The clarinet in particular seems to take flight in high vaulted ceiling of the church and for a while everyone is possessed by the beauty of it all. Given how used we are to grimy, functional concert halls, seeing music in settings as sublime as the music hopes to be, is a nice change.

There are many highlights, but 'B’s Jig' and the finale of 'Tortoise Regrets Hare' sung with members of the Pictish Trail providing backing especially stand out. Perhaps the lasting memory of the show is the warmth and humour of Yorkston, whether as raconteur with a story so unlikely about a goose that it had to be true, to his gently powerful songs and superb backing band.












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