Gregory Porter – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Gregory Porter – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre (2)

By Charlotte Oliver, July 2024

It was a grey and rainy Monday evening with a distinct chill in the air, but in no way did this dampen the spirits of the crowd at Scarborough’s beautiful Open Air Theatre last night, as they enjoyed an evening with Grammy-award winning jazz vocalist Gregory Porter.

Supporting was singer-songwriter JP Cooper, best known for his vocals on the Jonas Blue single ‘Perfect Strangers’ and his single ‘September Song’. Cooper delivered a great set, charming the audience with his amiable presence, gorgeous voice and an accomplished band.

Then it was Porter’s turn. The American singer, fresh from a string of US and European dates, took to the stage and launched straight into his hit ‘Holding On’, to cheers from the crowd. Smartly dressed and wearing his trademark Kangol Summer Spitfire hat (a particularly wise choice given the weather), the power of his beautiful baritone voice was immediately obvious ¬– even the rain seemed to realise it could not compete, heading off to let Porter’s gorgeous music alone fill the seaside air.

Gregory Porter – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre (1)

Support act, JP Cooper

“Incredible musicians”

From the get-go, it was clear that the set would take the form of a traditional jazz gig, with Porter generously sharing the limelight with his band, handing space to them to solo and shine for themselves throughout his songs. And what a band it was! Seven incredible musicians which not only included a grand piano but also a Hammond organ and a Rhodes. Though unfair to single any of the instrumentalists out, solos by the saxophonist, the Hammond player and the double bassist will stay with me for a long time.

We were treated to a wonderful 90-minute set that included many of the songs Porter is most famous for, such as the sublime ‘Hey Laura’, ‘No Love Dying’ and ‘Take Me to the Alley’. The gospel music that was such a strong early influence on Porter came through frequently and had the audience clapping and even occasionally dancing along, despite it being a seated performance.

In between songs, Porter chatted warmly to the audience, commenting on the weather, chips, pubs and how beautiful Scarborough is (as if we needed any further encouragement to adore him!). He also talked of how love is the answer to the trouble in the world, sprinkling a generous dose of optimism over the whole crowd.

Gregory Porter – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre (3)


Special mention must also be made to the Scarborough Open Air Theatre itself. The sound quality was absolutely brilliant, the staff were unfailingly polite and helpful, and, as always, there was a wonderful BSL Interpreter at the side of the stage throughout the show.

Further into the set, Porter shared something of his personal life with us, and how he made believe that his absent father was in fact, Nat King Cole. He then sang a spine-tinglingly beautiful cover of Cole’s hit ‘Mona Lisa’ which had the audience rapt. Porter’s voice is truly sublime; pitch-perfect and deeply sonorous with a slight gravelly edge. It simply filled the skies last night and enchanted us all.

The excellent finale of ‘Mister Holland’ was followed by the crowd swiftly leaping to their feet to thank Porter and his band with a standing ovation for a truly magical evening.

If you get the chance, I would advise seeing Gregory Porter live. You will have a fantastically uplifting evening and leave feeling as though the sun is shining, whatever the weather.

images: Cuffe & Taylor


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