What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, around this time, I was stood in this very park for hours waiting for Runrig to perform, all the while wondering and worrying what the symptoms of trench-foot were. Now, while not the ideal picnic atmosphere CK Events probably wanted, it was about as good a day as this area’s had in a long time. Can’t really ask for much better… but better we most certainly got.
Starting with Scooty and the Skyhooks, a band I’ve heard of countless times before, but never actually heard. I didn’t even know the kind of music they did, but as it turns out it’s absolutely ideal for a Jools Holland support act. Their big-band sound and their obviously experienced, confident and energetic frontman got the crowd dancing immediately – seriously, it only took them to the first chorus – and their quick run-through of soul and motown classics (including “Get Ready” by the Temptations, “I Got You” by James Brown and “Rescue Me” by Fontella Bass) was about as ideal a start as Jools could have asked for.
By the time they finished, the clouds came and the temperature dropped quite significantly, but Jools Holland and and all of the talented performers with him simply refused to allow people to feel the chill, encouraging everyone to dance to keep warm. Seemingly quite eccentric, talking about the “Gods of boogie-woogie,” often repeating himself and so on, his charisma kept everyone transfixed as to what was happening on stage, but the spotlight never remained on him for any length of time.
Not content with just gushing introductions, Jools very rarely took much of the limelight, allowing the rest of the orchestra to shine through. Particularly, Gilson Lavis on drums shone through with solid drumming throughout, and was afforded a drum solo later in the set which I’m pleased to report was not just a god-awful racket, unlike most. Rico Rodriguez also added a rather brilliant change of pace with a reggae-tinged version of Nat King Cole’s “Love Was Made For Me And You,” and Chris Difford brought a few Squeeze hits with him which proved very popular with the crowd, including the almost obligatory “Cool For Cats.”
Two things struck me about Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, and one was how completely selfless the bandleader is. Jools was more than happy to just tickle the ivories and occasionally sing. He’s not the egotistical frontman who wants all the attention; he’s more like a child who’s found something really god-damn awesome and wants to show everyone else how amazing it is. He seems to be in awe of all the talent around him, whilst apparently oblivious to his own.
The other was how much everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. There were no egos in the rest of the band either, despite the sheer amount of individual talent between them. They happily chatted among themselves between their contributions to the music, and would applaud others’ solos – essentially, they were as much in the audience as we were, and in a way (and hopefully without sounding too much like Jools) this made the audience connect with the performers too.
Nobody stood still tonight. People were dancing everywhere, even boogie-ing to and from the toilets. Try as you might, between the sheer talent on display and the charisma of all the performers, not least Mr Holland himself, there was no way anyone with ears could have not enjoyed themselves tonight. Of that I can assure you.
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