Jools Holland, Marc Almond, Ruby Turner and more, Symphony Hall, Birmingham - review
He’s introduced hundreds of up-and-coming stars on his weekly TV show for more than a quarter of a century; played with the likes of Eric Clapton, Sting and George Harrison; and regularly performs at the iconic Royal Albert Hall.
And last night Jools Holland brought his legendary piano skills and talented Rhythm and Blues Orchestra to Birmingham.
He was also joined at the city centre show by a selection of guest singers, including the ever outstanding Marc Almond and Birmingham’s very own Ruby Turner.
Jools has come a long way since playing pubs in the docks of London’s East End and his repeatedly brilliant performances on piano during his Symphony Hall gig showed exactly just how talented he is. With a left hand which has received praise from even the likes of blues legend BB King, the 60 year old stunned crowds as he showed off outstandingly sharp, speedy and intricate playing skills - often made all the more impressive by his fingerwork being displayed on a large screen behind the stage for all to see.
He and his band filled the venue’s stage; his group comprising 15 musicians, with 11 playing brass, a guitarist, bassist, and keyboardist, as well as drummer Gilson Lavis with whom Jools has worked for more than 35 years.
“I love Birmingham, I have a very close attachment to everyone here,” beamed Jools.
“I remember when we used to play JB’s in Dudley. Rather than driving back to London in that horrible car, we’d often ask if we could stay with members of the audience.”
Singing as guests and performing as backing singers with Jools were Mabel Ray and Louise Marshall, who sang a few numbers, before Soft Cell idol Marc Almond took to the stage - and in doing so, seemed to instantly light up the room.
It is truly hard to believe Marc is now 61, as his almost hyperactive energy saw him running, jumping and dancing on each of his outstanding numbers, while somehow at the same time delivering his uniquely strong, beautiful vocals.
Kicking off his slot with Say Hello Wave Goodbye, the Southport icon had fans dancing and singing along as he wowed with phenomenal power, passion and range.
Songs from his new album with Jools came next including the lively Gypsy Rover, It’s My Life Baby, and ballad I’ll Take Care of You, before he raised the roof with all-time favourite Tainted Love.
Then came Ruby Turner, a Montego Bay-born singer with Birmingham roots - and the most wonderful voice, which at times was reminiscent of Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner.
Her excellent vocals, passionate yet cheerful and endearing demeanour, and great energy made for a wonderful performance, as she clearly enjoyed her slot as much as the crowd.
A great, varied show, packed with talent and a love for the music industry.
A must-see for fans of soul, blues, swing and R’n’B.