A Hootenanny in July

Jools Holland

Jools Holland

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Jools Holland & his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, Preston Guild Hall

There followed an early interval before Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra took to the stage and the atmosphere was like being at his televised New Year’s Eve party at midnight with Jools inviting us to join in, meet all his guests and have a good night out.

As the house lights were switched on periodically throughout the show, everyone in the packed Guild Hall could be seen doing just that, swaying and clapping along in their seats and dancing in the aisles.

With his 14-piece orchestra playing at a volume that could have toppled Blackpool Tower 20 miles away, Jools pounded the piano keys relentlessly and his talented musicians tore into a non-stop round of numbers, many instrumental, that could loosely be termed R & B with a couple of songs each by Mabel Ray and Louise Marshall.

Legendary drummer from Squeeze, Gilson Lavis, played a drum solo which earned huge applause although, for myself, I have always found drum solos slightly more tedious than hearing Marcel Marceau sing.

But then came onstage the man who stole the show, master of the torch song, Marc Almond.

Full of chutzpah, he launched into ‘Say hello, wave goodbye’, with the audience already providing backing chorus, followed it with ‘If you love me, really love me’ from ’Evita’ and finished with his No.1 hit from the 80’s, ‘Tainted Love’.

By now, Jools Holland had got into his New Orleans boogie/blues mode and the Orchestra suddenly sounded like Big Joe Turner’s backing band. But, with Joe long gone, it was the inimitable Ruby Turner who took the stage as the last guest and she was simply magnificent.

‘Peace in the Valley’ was sung with the passion and fervour of a Southern Baptist gospel singer while ‘I’ll be seeing you’ had a classic Fifties Big Band feel. Such versatility.

By 10.30pm it was all over and the talented troupe of entertainers moved on. Next stop Edinburgh but for Preston fans, a night to long remember.

RON ELLIS