Gig review: Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra with Jose Feliciano at York Barbican

The Jools Holland Rhythm and Blues Orchestra with Jose Feliciano at York Barbican. Picture: David Hodgson
The Jools Holland Rhythm and Blues Orchestra with Jose Feliciano at York Barbican. Picture: David Hodgson
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The best most of us can hope for when moving into a new house is for a quiet life, no major decorating disasters and decent neighbours. Set opener Mark Flanagan moved onto the same street as Jools Holland 30 years ago and has been playing his blues guitar in the frontman’s Rhythm and Blues Band ever since.

With just a steel and acoustic guitar for company, the former the most efficient weapon, Flanagan proves quite the raconteur through a 30 minute set of solo blues tracks, the highlights being his ‘most upbeat song’ Just Say Yes and Strange Plants from album Down the Wire.

Flanagan then joined Holland on stage for the main event. Clearly the pianist and singer’s profile has been in the ascendency for years but to pigeonhole him as a TV presenter would be very, very wide of the mark.

For a start, Holland is able to assemble the most impressive band, from long time drumming collaborator Gilson Lavis and an 11-piece brass section. Complement that with the finest singers fused with camaraderie and enthusiasm, the mix is infectious.

Holland’s new album is a collaboration with Jose Feliciano, the legendary Latin musician and singer. And what a highlight the Puerto Rican’s introduction was. First releasing music in the 1960s, Feliciano and Holland’s collaborative album will include a rendition of the Stevie Wonder classic Treat Myself, which featured on the evening alongside The Doors Light my Fire and set closer Hit the Road Jack. Feliciano and Holland haven’t clocked up the miles they have without being able to lift a sold out crowd to their feet and tonight was no different.

Sandwiching the Latin set were long time Holland singers Louise Marshall and Beth Rowley, both huge voices with differing styles and backed by a band seemingly capable of any genre. If anyone has a voice capable of filling a theatre, or even a stadium, perhaps even a small country then look further than Ruby Turner. Concluding the main set, Turner blasted through a mixture of blues and gospel songs, putting so much energy and passion into the finale that she looked like she’d just concluded an exorcism rather than a gig.

The audience had been standing and dancing in the aisles for the best part of an hour and there was no chance that the band were going anywhere soon. Re-emerging with everyone on stage for the huge rendition of Hit the Road Jack, the sound created by the band and four singers brought the set to a close on a high.

Jools Holland does seem to have toured forever and there is rarely not an opportunity for his most ardent fans to see him live. Touring so extensively, it would almost be forgivable to slip into some sort of comfort zone but with the introduction of Jose Feliciano together with maintaining and almost continual level of passion and quality if there is one thing Holland certainly isn’t it’s a stale, bad neighbour.