Every time I see Gregory Porter it feels festive, no more so than this year, with his latest album ‘Christmas Wish’ riding high in the charts. Tonight, walking out of South Kensington station on a refreshingly crisp December evening heading towards the magnificent Royal Albert Hall, it certainly feels like Christmas has arrived early.

In the luscious main auditorium decked with garlands of twinkling lights, two Christmas trees stand proudly in front of the second largest pipe organ in the UK (the largest in Liverpool Cathedral) and the scene is set. With his band and the Kingdom Orchestra in place, the beat for 'Little Drummer Boy' begins and from stage left Porter makes his entrance, to rapturous applause.

The perfect tempo to kick-start the show, Porter relaxes his way into the evening. ‘Liquid Spirit’ ups the bpms and get the hands clapping. Modifying the lyrics to ‘Christmas Spirit’ the mood lifts and Porter gets firmly into his groove. ‘If Love Is Overrated’ takes us flying into epic dimensions with saxophonist Tivon Pennicott deserving of special mention, his exceptional solo literally blew us away.

‘Hey Laura’ sounds as fresh as ever, as does ‘A Cradle in Bethlehem’ first recorded by Porter’s forever hero Nat King Cole, who would have surely been proud of tonight’s rendition.
‘Make Believe’ with Billie Fraser and children’s choir, mark its release day today in support of the well-deserving charity War Child, brings the first half to a close.

After the break the second half starts with the uplifting vibes and beautifully lit ‘Revival’ which speaks of finding hope even in the darkest of times. ‘Modern Day Apprentice’ sees the incredible Kingdom Orchestra at its heartfelt best with Christmas standard ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ another orchestral affirmation. Vocally Porter seems to be getting better with age, plumbing the glorious depths of his range with ease.

Never tipping into saccharin nostalgia Porter has the capacity to touch so many because he is not afraid to travel from easy classics to places of pain and suffering. Tonight is no different, including a stand out rendition of 'Take Me To The Alley'. Recounting the times his mother took him to “sing for the afflicted in the dark places”, he remembers fondly that “these were the people that first confirmed my talent.”

It’s hard to think of another artist whose vocals can warm like a crackling fire, comfort like a fine mulled wine and delight like the pop of a cracker. A Christmas triplet concludes the night with the bouncy ‘Christmas Wish’ and ‘Heart for Christmas’ both written by Porter. As the encore begins with the classic line “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” it’s ‘The Christmas Song’ which will end this magical festive evening.

Tonight, there was only one star to follow and oh what great joy he brought. A spectacular night of music which should be repeated every December. Here’s hoping.
If you want Gregory Porter around your table for Christmas, and who wouldn’t, make sure ‘Christmas Wish’ is in your stocking.

Set list
Set 1

Little Drummer Boy
Liquid Spirit (lyrics changed to Christmas Spirit)
Christmas Waltz
Everything’s Not Lost
If Love Is Overrated
Hey Laura
A Cradle in Bethlehem
Silent Night
Make Believe with Billie Fraser and children’s choir

Set 2
Modern Day Apprentice
Do You Hear What I Hear?
No Love Dying
Take Me to the Alley
Holding On Disclosure cover
Christmas Wish
Heart for Christmas (with band introductions)

The Christmas Song (Mel Tormé cover)