Jools Holland & His R&B Band |
at the Harewood House,
(2 July 2004)
What a dazzling evening of music from Jools Holland & his R&B Band! The atmosphere was perfect -- a dancing (or at least standing) audience of around 7,500 can't be wrong! Picnics got a bit soggy when a pre-performance shower threatened to put a dampener on the evening, but by some miracle, the rain held off for the show itself.
We were gathered in front of the huge outdoor stage erected just to the north of Harewood House. After an enjoyable short set by singer-songwriter Edwina Hayes, Holland took to the stage to a huge roar of approval and immediately set about dazzling us with his customary display of piano virtuosity, panache and great showmanship. (It's true what they say, his left hand NEVER keeps still!) Wasting not a single second, Holland set about warming us up. He played with incredible gusto, performing well over two-and-a-half hours of rollicking R&B classics, even playing his piano upside-down on occasion. His rapport with the audience was excellent, and he genuinely seemed to have a fabulous time himself.
From my prime front-of-stage position (which I wasn't going to give up for anything), I sensed that this was a gig where the audience had come along with every intention to dance and enjoy themselves, and we wasted no time at all tuning into the superb rhythms blasted out by Holland and his fabulous band -- they played tightly and with immense precision and flourish right from the off. Almost a score of musicians crowded the stage; at the centre was Holland (and his Yamaha piano), above him his drummer and long-time collaborator Gilson Lavis and his guitarist and bassist. These three were responsible for pounding out pulsing, solid rhythms throughout the entire set. To Holland's right was his brass section, a glorious melee of saxophonists, trumpeters and trombonists.
And WHAT a sound they made! From the first moment the audience got into the groove and the dancing began. Holland and his band belted their way through an electrifying selection of R&B standards, including, "Odd Man Out" and Ray Charles' "Mess Around." Glorious moments abounded; the lovely Sam Brown took to the stage to work her way through some great songs, including the soul-packed "The Juice Head" and "Valentine Moon," with its grand flute solo. The boogie-woogie continued at a storming pace, slowing down just occasionally to allow the sheer blues heaven of songs like "Baby Won't You Please Come Home" and "Reconsider Baby" to overwhelm us.
Holland got a fine bit of audience participation going towards the end of the evening, when he got the audience to participate in a great "tension and release" number -- the shimmering sound of his brass section (on what I think was a Woody Herman number) accompanied some wonderful singing from the audience, and great fun was had by all.
The most thrilling, hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck-raising moment for me was when the incredible Jamaica-born vocalist Ruby Turner entered stage left. The atmosphere crackled with electricity as she belted out "Nobody But You" in her glorious, inimitable soul-laden voice. Both Turner and Brown accompanied Holland throughout the rest of the show -- fabulous to see the two of them jamming away together during one of the many finales! The performance ended with a sensational version of "Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)." It was all capped off by a cracking firework display, the explosions creating a double-boom effect as they ricocheted off the facade of Harewood House. What a superb, enjoyable evening's entertainment.
Check out www.harewood.org to get a flavour of the sheer splendour of this outdoor venue!