REVIEW: Katie Melua brings classic Christmas cheer to York

AS FESTIVE treats go, Katie Melua's performance at York Barbican is simply pitch-perfect.

Katie Melua and the Gori Women's Choir (CREDIT: Allan Jones)
Katie Melua and the Gori Women's Choir (CREDIT: Allan Jones)

At her ethereal best, the gifted songwriter yet again shows her multi-faceted talent.

She effortlessly delivers, whether going alone solo simply armed with one of her countless guitars, accompanied by her band or, most impressively, when joining the brilliant Gori Women’s Choir.

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Throughout a wonderful set, enhanced by the nuanced and visually stunning Karni & Saul animated wintry backdrops, she has the audience enthralled.

Katie Melua at York Barbican

Understandably, given the time of year, Melua revisits her 2016 Christmas album, In Winter, starting out in her native tongue with If You Are So Beautiful.

Then comes the enchanting Plane Song, one of her earliest numbers Belfast (where she moved when aged eight) plus the song that she will forever be associated with - Nine Million Bicycles.

It says plenty about Melua’s talent, though, that the latter is far from the highlight of the night.

Instead, the introduction of the Gori Women’s Choir takes the performance to another level again.

Katie Melua with the Gori Women's Choir at York Barbican

Melua explains how she visited her homeland Georgia four years ago to first meet them

and hear them rehearse.

A collaboration ensued and, here, yet again, the results were stunning.

They join her for a splendid version of Joni Mitchell’s River and the haunting Dreams Of Fire.

She describes O Holy Night as one of the “best Christmas carols ever” and there can be few arguments especially when sung so beautifully with the 16-piece choir.

Next comes a surprise departure; a solo version of Diamonds Are Forever which is an emphatic end to the first act.

After the intermission, comes Perfect World (although its mesmerising accompanying animated tale actually challenges Melua for dominance here) and Little Sparrow along with the classic ballad I Cried For You.

Another Christmas regular - Carol Of The Bells - can be quite harsh to some ears but not when Melua, having discarded her guitar, joins the choir and brings her delicate tone to the famous lyrics.

We also hear The Flood and the popular Closest Thing To Crazy as well as Piece By Piece.

She clearly still enjoys her version of Black’s Wonderful Life - it is sublime - and then comes the encore; a perfect triumvirate of another famous cover Fields of Gold before the band and choir return for her new song Maybe I Dreamt It, finishing with Louis Armstrong’s spellbinding What A Wonderful World.

What a wonderful night, too.