Jools Holland & his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra – Review – Hull City Hall
By Roger Crow, June 2018
I’ve been writing features about Jools Holland for 26 years. Usually centring on his Later… guest stars because the man himself can be a bit of an enigma. Though I’m impressed with his ivory-tinkling skills, I’ve always found the man himself to be a little like a used car dealer. He has that aura of a bloke who’s just shifted a nice little motor.
I’m at Hull City Hall where a packed crowd is seated for warm-up act Chris Holland (brother of Jools). I can’t make out much of what he’s saying, but his vocals and keyboard skills are impressive even if his banter is shy and a little awkward.
The main event does not disappoint, even if there are too many musicians. Each of them is terrific, and we get to witness their skills, either through brief or lengthy individual performances. The drum solo by fellow Squeeze veteran Gilson Lavis is worthy of Buddy Rich and quite rightly attracts thunderous applause.
“Giving their all”
Among the guest stars is Marc Almond, who is on top form. His versions of old classics ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ and ‘Tainted Love’ bring the house down. The latter adapts beautifully to that big band sound. (I’d love to have heard him perform ‘Jackie’ and ‘Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart’ with that gobsmacking backing, but sadly it’s not to be).
Part of the problem with so many powerful musicians on stage is the danger of them overlapping and drowning out the vocalists. The gig works best when stripped down to basics. Just Jools and Gilson for example, or impressive vocalists Louise Marshall and Rosie Mae doing their thing.
When everyone is giving their all, it occasionally turns into cacophonous noise, like throwing a drum kit and a piano down the Burj Khalifa lift shaft. However, it hardly matters. That feel good vibe soon washes over the audience and I’m left with a dilemma: stand up as Jools and his colleagues suggest or stay seated. As every row in my eye-line is up, I have little choice if I want to see anything but a sea of heads, while those behind me are seated. It’s a no-win scenario. I’ll risk it as waves of goodwill wash over us.
“Work magic on a keyboard”
I soon realise Jools’ grin is not that of a used car dealer, but a man who creates used song euphoria. Gathering so much talent on one stage, letting them do their thing and seeing the effect it has on an audience would give me a silly grin too. And that’s not even counting the ability to not only work magic on a keyboard but also play guitar. (I had no idea the Squeeze veteran was so accomplished in the latter department).
Inevitably Jools brings out Ruby Turner, one of the few women on Earth who can eclipse a dozen-plus musicians with her vocals. Some singers have voices like milk float engines: quiet, slow and they get the job done, but with little power. Ms Turner is a 747-engine of a vocalist; a 007-worthy diva still awaiting the call from Team Broccoli who belts out numbers like a woman possessed.
For most of the gig there’s that feeling of ‘I haven’t got a clue which is Jools’ signature track, but I’m enjoying what I’m hearing’. Slow numbers. Boogie woogie tunes. Blues. It’s a jamboree bag of a gig, with a little of something for everyone.
And then comes ‘Enjoy Yourself. It’s Later Than You Think’, the slightly portentous Radio 2 Drive-time theme which touches a chord with every middle-aged punter present. Suddenly I feel less guilty about being stood up; such life-affirming shows are to be grabbed with both hands.
I’m not surprised Holland has such a fine reputation for getting a crowd going. He’s a boogie woogie version of Glenn Miller who gets everyone in the mood for a good night.
Outstanding stuff and highly recommended. If nothing else, I’ll never look at Later… in the same way again.
images: Mary McCarthy