So, Christmas is just around the corner, but there’s one element missing from the festive feelgood live music mix in this neck of the woods – Jools Holland’s customary visit to Plymouth Pavilions.
Just as his star-studded Hootenanny bash on BBC Two has been a ritual for many of the folks staying home to see in the New Year for the past two decades, the dedicated music champion’s December shows have become an annual fixture for his legions of fans.
Fear not, for boogie woogie piano man, composer, band leader, broadcaster and all-round genial host Jools is on his way and will be rolling into the city tonight with his trusty Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, to get everyone in the party mood.
While his resident singers – Louise Marshall and the fabulous Ruby Turner – will both be exercising their powerful vocal cords on stage as usual, Jools’ special guest for the tour is pop icon and former Spice Girl Melanie C. Reviews from the tour so far herald a weighty contribution that confirms the wisdom of her addition to a long line of luminaries who have preceded her through the years including KT Tunstall, Alison Moyet, Lulu and Sandie Shaw.
Mel, who turns 40 next month, has come a long way since her days as Sporty Spice in a track suit, trainers and scraped back ponytail. With maturity and glamour added to her attributes, she has built a successful solo career, charting two number one singles, and releasing six albums, as well as spreading her wings to perform on the theatre stage in Blood Brothers and Jesus Christ Superstar.
As a unit, the Rhythm and Blues Orchestra have held together admirably over the years, with Jools’s musical partner Gilson Lavis driving proceedings from the drum kit, Mark Flanagan on guitar, Dave Swift bass on bass and Jools’s brother Christopher Holland on organ, piano, backing vocals and also, on this occasion, support slot duties. And I always look forward to seeing the fabulously groovy ska trombonist Rico Rodriguez – now approaching his 80th birthday – in action beside the rest of the big, bold, brass section.
On the menu for this show are tracks spanning Jools’s entire post-Squeeze solo career, as well as songs taken from his most recent album – The Golden Age Of Song – which was released last year and is still holding it own.
His first major collaboration since 2007’s Moving Out To The Country, it features superb live duets with a host of top names including current number one single artist Lily Allen, Florence Welch, Tom Jones, the late Amy Winehouse, Caro Emerald, Paul Weller and Cee-Lo Green, and tunes like Reet Petite, The Lady Is A Tramp, Mad About the Boy, and the much-lauded Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive with guest vocals from Rumer.
Father-of-four Jools, who lives in “a world of his own” in Kent with his family, holds the unique status of performing with musicians who have achieved success in every decade of the 20th century.
From his early days playing pubs in the East End docks as a teenage greaser right up to the present day, he retains his passion for making and sharing music of a myriad varieties.
Ten years ago he was awarded to OBE for services to the British music industry as a television presenter and musician, and he shows no signs of slowing down, having hosted almost 300 Later... with Jools Holland TV sessions and hosting his own weekly BBC radio show. If you can’t make the Plymouth gig, there are many performances to look forward to in this year’s Hootenanny, if you can get over any gripes about it being pre-recorded. Among those on the bill are Ray Davies, Rudimental, Emeli Sande, Charlie Wilson (Gap Band), Laura Mvula, Lisa Stansfield, HAIM, The Proclaimers, John Newman, Madness saxophonist Lee Thompson, The Lumineers and, yes, you’ve guessed it... Melanie C, and not forgetting the Pipes and Drums of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards.