Jools Holland at Hampton Court Palace Festival 2013
It’s not often one is able to safely make lurid assumptions about a gig in advance. In the case of Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra at Hampton Court Palace however, one can probably forgive suggestions that this would be a fairly nostalgic affair. Having gone in with expectations lowered accordingly, the bold musical talent and natural showmanship of Holland himself remains beyond doubt, even if the evening’s other components didn’t shine quite so brightly.
A crowd of thoroughly wined and dined 40-, 50- and 60-somethings piled their way into Hampton Court Palace’s magnificent Tudor Base Court after several hours’ picnicking, and itching for a show. Holland stepped up in fine form and energetically cued his dozen-strong orchestra into some jumpy boogie woogie. Holland is still a tour de force on the keys, channeling any number of 20th century American greats with much flair, while his band played along barely ably at best.
The numerous guest vocalists on show were almost distracting, which purported a hodgepodge and unfocused atmosphere. Regular Holland backing singers Rosie May and Louise Marshall both got lead slots, but were swiftly dismissed to the back, literally upstaged by Holland and the next guest. Each orchestra member was given a showcase – mostly a less than thrilling solo crowbarred into a high energy number where it simply wasn’t needed. Of note were the extended drum solo by Gilson Lavis (of new wave legends and Jools’ first band Squeeze) and an appearance by ska legend Rico Rodriguez, who was quite possibly the oldest person in attendance by no mean feat.
Two sets featuring guest vocalists Roland Gift and Ruby Turner rounded off the evening. Gift’s began as something of a misfire with the majority of the crowd audibly not knowing who he was (that’d be singer for Fine Young Cannibals by the way)! But his rendition of Suspicious Minds quickly got the crowd to finally clamber right out of their chairs in delight. Later Turner proved to be the only performer with enough charisma to match Holland.
Over encumbered by aimless soloing and guests, this show constantly chased the musical soul its performers sadly lacked. The orchestra was akin to a cruise ship’s backing band albeit the best one in the entire world. The crowd wanted nothing less and, as aforementioned, one expected little more. It is therefore tough to fault them when their audience had so much fun.
Photos: Tim Parkinson
For further information and future events visit Jools Holland’s website here.
Watch the orchestra play Maiden’s Lament at Jools’s Annual Hootenanny 2013 here: