Hugh Laurie at the Hammersmith Apollo
Promoting the release of his second album, Didn’t It Rain, Hugh Laurie is charming, charismatic and wildly entertaining at the Hammersmith Apollo, but he simply compliments the main attraction that is The Copper Bottom Band.
Not to discredit our host, Laurie’s comedic styling, effervescent stage presence, instrumental capabilities and vocal capacity are astounding. Opening with Iko Iko, he dances on stage, downs a shot of whiskey and moves to the piano to accompany the band and lead on vocals. He is boisterous and engaging, comfortably speaking to the audience as if chatting with friends in his living room. However, the heart and soul of this jazz and blues performance is driven by the supporting musicians.
Gaby Moreno and Laurie collaborate for a rendition of Kiss of Fire that combines the Spanish and English versions of the song to create a unique duet that sounds sexy and passionate. In Moreno’s opening verse, the language barrier prevents you from understanding her words but it’s sultry and you can feel her emotion. The couple dance a simple tango midway through and the result is an appealing display of vocals and showmanship.
Sista Jean’s performance of Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair demands recognition as her powerful vocals enthral the audience and fill the hall. She’s animated as she testifies “I cut him with my barlow, I kicked him in the side, I stood there laughing over him while he wallowed ‘round and died”, and creates a calculated, malignant persona. The content is made more lighthearted with the musical styling of multi-talented guitarist Mark Goldenberg on banjo, setting the tone as Laurie is on piano, pounding the gavel to the beat.
We see more of Laurie’s ability in Bunny Bolden’s Blues as he takes the lead on piano and vocals, demonstrating a rich and mellow fervor in the lyrics he recites, the tone he carries and the style he embodies. Joined onstage by celebrated jazz trombonist Chris Barber, he effortlessly creates the most soulful descant, attesting to his legendary standing.
With a group so talented across an array of musical instruments, with such a vast vocal range amongst them, it’s no surprise that the audience’s cheers turn to thunder as they hold out for a second encore. You Can Never Tell keeps the same momentum and energy present throughout the entire set, and the crowd are on their feet until the end.
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Watch the video for Wild Honey here: