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Review: Jools Holland & Marc Almond at O2 Apollo

Jools Holland and Marc Almond are currently on the road doing a 35-date UK tour with Jools’ Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.

After queuing in the wet and windy Manchester night, I was not in the best frame of mind when finding my seat; however, the air of expectation from fervent Jools fans soon changed my spirit.

After an excellent session from Ten Millenia the crowd eagerly awaited Joules on stage. With the spotlight on the shining black Yamaha Piano Joules entered the stage in his obligatory charcoal pinstripe suite and white buttoned black shirt, but the question is will he take his jacket off???

His Orchestra followed onto the stage and Joules asked if the crowd wanted to “boogie woogie” tonight, and then launched into his version of “Bumble Boogie” with his band members encouraging the audience to clap from the start.

Jools then went straight into his rendition of “Garden Hotel” where he was joined by his younger brother Christopher on the piano with the camera trying to focus on four hands frantically hitting the keys.

Garden of Love” was his next offering after asking the crowd if they liked SKA music to which the crowd responded by bouncing and clapping along to the beat.

Mabel Ray was invited as his first guest of tonight, with a rendition of “Today’s the Day We’re Going to be Romantic” before Jools brought his own twist to tracks by Dr John in which Gilson Lavish gave a stunning drum solo.

Jools later explained he had known Gilson since his days with “Squeeze” and they shared hotel rooms “that medieval peasants” wouldn’t stay in.

Before the next track someone from the circle shouted, “let’s have a party”, Jools shouted back “do you want a party?!” and the whole audience replied, “yeah we want a party!”.

Roll Lady Roll” with Louise Marshall’s superb vocals was the next track before Jools introduced Marc Almond as his special guest. Marc started his six tracks with “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” in which the audience sang every word with him and were encouraged to sing the chorus by themselves.

Tracks from the new collaborative album followed including the title track “A Lovely Life To Live” and “Gipsy Rover” he ended with “Tainted Love” which had all the crowd on their feet singing along and clapping.

Marc was impeccably dressed in his black granddad collar suite and did not look like he had aged a day since he entered the music industry in the 80’s.

The fabulous Ruby Turner then came on to do five numbers which she ended with the classic gospel track “Peace in the Valley” delivered with the power and emotion of a rabid preacher in the southern states.

The audience were not going to let the Orchestra go and they duly provided an encore which started with a joyous version of “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)” then the audience sat spellbound during Ruby Turner’s rendition of “Silent Night” and they ended with “Alright, Okay, You Win”.

The whole orchestra bowed graciously to the crowd with Jools thanking everyone for coming out this evening.

Throughout the concert Jools would introduce his band members as they provided masterful solo’s during the numbers and it was clear they were all friends rather than orchestra members.

And the answer to my question “did he take his jacket off?!” is no because he was the coolest man in Manchester that evening.

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