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Jools Holland and the Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, Preston Guild Hall

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Jools Holland marks the passage of time as clearly as any calendar.

Every New Year’s Eve, for several generations now, his TV Hootenanny show has provided an alternative celebration for an audience, in part at least, of young parents unable to throw themselves into the festivities.

Nowadays, this guarantees him a ready-made crowd who are “ready to boogie” having grown up with his infectious approach to the big band way of doing things.

So on Saturday night, for the second year running, there was another capacity house here, as he brought his 20-piece Rhythm and Blues Orchestra to town.

A few opening bars from Jools, seemingly alone at his piano, and the audience are braced to boogie. Then a sudden burst of musicians and light on stage signals the start of hand-clapping, foot-tapping and dancing that doesn’t let up once during the 90-minute set.

Holland’s tried and tested formula, which again proves successful here, is to give his audience a “democratic” vote on whether to go blues or boogie woogie?

As ever, the stage is full to bursting, with world-class musicians and singers each seizing their moment for a solo and a cheer. Star turns, by the likes of Culture Club singer Ruby Turner or Specials trombonist Rico Rodriguez, are a feature of any Jools Holland gig, but the big moment was his stage reunion with fellow Squeeze star Chris Difford.

They captured the essence of their heyday and, along with drummer Gilson Lavis, performed classics, Cool For Cats and Up The Junction.

Such typically South-London storybook songs lose no resonance this far North though, and the audience are briefly transported back to the 1980s when New Years Eve was still their own and Hootenanny a twinkle in Holland’s eye.

 

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