Along a rain and wind swept A259 to the Brighton Centre for a feel good evening with Jools Holland and his Rythm and Blues Orchestra, in contrast to the storm raging outside. Mrs. M.A.E. and I found a reasonably priced place in the Lanes Car Park – not always easy – and went to JB’s American Diner (a grudging ***) for pre-concert refreshment. JBs has excellent pastiche diner décor and we have found it reliable in the past. Not so good tonight. Very slow service. My cheeseburger was passable though filled with far too much lettuce. Mrs. M’s hot dog better – rather like a genuine German red bratwurst.
We then struggled against the wind along to the Brighton Centre a large brutalist edifice by Russell Diplock Associates (1977) described by Antram and Morrice in their Pevsner Guide to Brighton as an “unpleasant interlude”. I cannot demur. It was I think primarily intended as a conference venue and has huge foyer spaces which may suit exhibitors but have little purpose for a concert. We caught the end of the support act Jon Allen, yet another guitar playing singer songwriter. Obviously unfair to judge him on so short a hearing, though your man didn’t discern any particular USP.
And then Jools Holland. The third time I’ve heard him with the big band. I first caught him at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend in the nineties. Got returned tickets in the front row. It was LOUD. This time, with better planning, we were in the centre of the first section of raised seating. Perfect view, perfect sound. He started with a boogie-woogie duet on one piano with younger brother Christopher that set the up-tempo mood. Then a section of the Jamaican music of Don Drummond featuring saxophonist Michael “Bammi(e)” Rose. Big Bill Broonzy’s Long Tall Mama followed with Phil Veacock on Sax, then everybody took a part in I Ain’t Got Nobody. The band left the stage and Jools the confessed as if entre nous to a long term and deep relationship between him and…….……..his piano. As if to show that mutual love he then went into a beautiful rendition of the instrumental Dorothy by Dr. John, which he actually wrote for his mother. Continuing the theme of long relationships, there was a rousing stride duet between Jools and his drummer of over 40 years, Gilson Lavis. They were in the band Squeeze together from 1975. More of that shortly.
To change the mood yet again we had solo vocals from Jools’s daughter Mable Ray and a bit of very fast Bach Jacques Loussier style by Jools himself. Then, something of a treat, a guest appearance by Chris Difford who was in Squeeze with Jools and Gilson. One got the impression that Difford, who lives just outside Brighton, had come along to see the show, called in on Jools’s dressing room and was asked to perform. He gave us Blowin’ in the Wind, Squeeze’s Take me I’m Yours and, of course, a memorable version of Cool for Cats (the last two both penned by Difford and Glenn Tilbrook). With little time to catch our breath Marc Almond appeared to give us Say Hello, Wave Goodbye complete with Pink Flamingo neon doorway, the title track of his new album with Jools A Lovely Life to Live, and Tainted Love with full audience participation.
What could follow this at a Jools Holland concert? Only, of course, the magnificent “Queen of Boogie Woogie” Ruby Turner at full volume leading up to the big finish of Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later than you Think), which Jools and the band recorded with Prince Buster in 2003. I’m not sure that Christmas was mentioned all evening but this was the perfect show bring on the festive spirit. And to cap it all the storm had abated when we got outside.