Curtis Eller’s American Circus, All Saints' Church, North Street, York, June 12

ONE hour into this unusual gig, an audience member posted on Facebook: "I’m in a church, drinking beer and I just watched a woman tap dance and bloke gig as a one man band. It’s sold out!"

His surprise would have been shared by many of the 150 people in attendance on Wednesday night: All Saints' Church on North Street was transformed into a circus for this event with Amercian troubadour Curtis Eller.

Balloons had been carefully arranged to mimic the roof of a big top. There was a bar, a ringmaster, a bit of magic, and three fantastic music acts, all of whom deserve mention.

The Old Time Rags (Ophelia Douthwaite and Laurence Marshall) brew a great mix of jazz, percussive dance and twirling brooms in a glimpse of entertainment from another time, but done with real affection. Ophelia has a great voice, and the pair work together brilliantly. The audience loved it.

York busker Charlie Swainson’s band of young, local musicians were also excellent, playing songs that had echoes of folk and rock.

Curtis Eller, American troubadour, banjo player, moustache-wearing curio, has worked hard to build up a following in Britain, and it’s paid off. The audience was large and enthusiastic, due in no small part to Eller's capacity to be a compelling live act. At one point, during his solo section at the beginning, you could hear a pin drop.

His balletic moves and audience interactions – switching a hat from one audience member to another – remain oddly riveting. His songs are tremendous. He rails against American culture, speaking of his love of Lenny Bruce, and satirising American politics.

The venue was, simultaneously, a blessing and a curse. Sightlines were not great, and drums in a church are always going to battle with echo and reverb. However, the novelty was engaging, and it brought something mischievous out of Eller.

Brought up in a Christian household, where loads of gospel music was played, he seemed to want to rebel against the religious surroundings he found himself in. He got the audience to shout a profanity (not everybody joined in), popped balloons with his banjo, and looked demonic when his face was bathed in red light.

This had to be one of the oddest, most compelling gigs York will see this year. As they say, you had to be there.

Miles Salter