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27th November 2017

Live Review: Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra

The legendary pianist puts on a groovy night to remember at the O2 Apollo with a little help from a plethora of guests

There’s a handful of concerts that you’ll attend in your lifetime which you will never forget for one reason or another. Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra’s concert at the O2 Apollo last Saturday was an unforgettable experience that I will brag about to my children, grandchildren, and everyone else until the day I die. With a myriad of guests gathered at the beautiful venue, Jools put on one hell of a show.

Jack Lukeman, an Irish folk singer, warmed up the crowd and their vocal chords with his folk call-and-response songs. He calmly walked out alone onto the stage with his guitar, fedora, and handkerchief hanging from his back pocket.

Within minutes, his majestic booming voice filled the room to the delight of the audience that was growing by the minute as they took their seats. His act was over in half an hour and honestly, we were all left itching for more. Luckily, Jack will return to Manchester on the 4th of December, performing at the Night & Day Cafe in Manchester.

While we patiently awaited the main event, my plus one and I looked around and noted that we were probably the youngest attendants at the event. It’s safe to say that the average age of the members of the crowd was somewhere in the range of 45 to 50 years old, an observation that goes to show how many young music lovers are missing out from some marvellous spectacles, such as the one that we were fortunate enough to attend.

A raucous round of applause erupted as Jools Holland took to the stage, instantly charming us all with his warm grin and undeniable swagger. The Rhythm & Blues Orchestra joined him on stage shortly afterwards and the Apollo was filled with the sound of quite possibly the best blues one might find in the entire world as of right now.

The drums, the organ, the guitars, the backing singers, the saxophones, the trumpets, and the percussion were all absolutely fantastic.

As a fan of multiple genres of music, most concerts make for a good evening out. With jazz, blues, and rock & roll however, there are stronger forces at play. These genres when experienced live fill my very soul with an intense feeling of joy that is unparalleled by any other musical act.

Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra did exactly that from the very first notes they played. They were flawlessly in sync, allowing us to witness them at play and at the peak of their creative abilities, a beautiful sight that anyone can appreciate.

After a couple songs, Jools — as he’d done for most other tracks — walked to the front of the stage, asked us all how we were feeling and presented the next guest or song.

“This man has been a friend of mine for a very long time,” he announced “I used to look up to him since I was this high.” indicating that at whatever age was in question he was no more than four feet tall. “Please welcome to the stage José Feliciano!”

As the crowd applauded and cheered, my jaw dropped — literally. I could not believe what I was witnessing. Not only was I in the presence of the great Jools Holland but the legendary José Feliciano was walking onto the stage with a huge smile that stretched from ear to ear across his face. The blind Puerto Rican sat on a stool and was handed his guitar, a true weapon of mass creation, which immediately kept the rock and roll train rolling to the sound of ‘Light My Fire’ and ‘California Dreamin’ among other tracks. As the show went on, other wonderful artists took to the stage, Ruby Turner and Rita Wilson among them.

By the end of it the whole auditorium was on their feet and my face genuinely hurt from smiling like a lunatic.

The night was truly an occasion that I’ll never forget. Every minute of the evening filled my heart with glee and my soul with song. Jools’ ability to put on a perfect show with his personality, flawless piano playing, soulful singing, and exquisite choice of guests is a rarity that no one has yet to recreate with this level of success.

I must confess, I’ve seen “The Rolling Stones” live, “U2” and “Queen + Adam Lambert” too. But none even come close to Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.

Rating: 10/10 (Read as: 11/10)

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