Monday, 3 May 2010

Later…with Jools Holland - Series 36 Show 4

The show that promised so much and delivered...well it didn't deliver what it promised...

The line-up:
  • Gorillaz (featuring Bobby Womack & Mos Def) - Stylo
  • Drive-by Truckers - Birthday Boy
  • Laura Marling - Devil’s Spoke
  • Bobby Womack (Chat and ‘jam’ with Jools)
  • Diane Birch - Valentino
  • Gorillaz - On Melancholy Hill
  • Bobby McFerrin - Smile
  • Damon Albarn & Jamie Hewlett (Chat with Jools)
  • Mos Def - Quiet Dog Bite Hard
  • Laura Marling - Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)
  • Gorillaz (featuring Little Dragon) - To Binge
  • Diane Birch - Fools
  • Bobby McFerrin (Chat and ‘scat’ with Jools)
  • Laura Marling - Rambling Man
  • Drive-by Truckers - Drag The Lake Charlie
  • Gorillaz (featuring De La Soul & Gruff Rhys - Superfast Jellyfish)

As I said in my review of last week’s Later Live, the full Friday show promised to be one of the best in recent series. Sadly, and maybe due to my own elevated expectations, the Tuesday Live show proves to be a manageable main course rather than an air-filled starter. That said, there are some exceptional moments and the final result is more quality than over-stuffed quantity.

Any show featuring Damon Albarn’s post-Blur ensemble Gorillaz is bound to be interesting. Featuring Bobby Womack and Mos Def, the show kicks off with Stylo, complete with the Bruce Willis, gun-fest, car-chase video playing in the background. But what is clear from the four songs performed, this latest offering from Gorillaz entitled Plastic Beach, is a lot more mellow than before. The oddly dull Albarn solo effort On Melancholy Hill and the Little Dragon duet To Binge fail to impress but the finale Superfast Jellyfish with the wondrous combination of De La Soul and Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals is a piece of magic. It’s what I have come to expect from Albarn who, after fighting his band mates in Blur, is now liberated to make interesting collaborative music, even if it is hit, miss, miss, hit.

For me, Laura Marling was direct, no nonsense and gimmick free, cold and functional but injecting even more focus and power into songs already fuelled by both. Devil’s Spoke was a copy of the Live show, but the gorgeous glass-eyed Goodbye England (Covered In Snow) and the dramatic folk of Rambling Man are both excellent. Likewise Diane Birch, who sadly only gets two songs, is confident and precise. The piano-led singer drifts from jazz to soul into 70s swagger with Valentino then Fools, looking like Kate Nash but sounding like a modern day Carly Simon.

The disappointing ‘band’ is Drive-by Truckers who promised a lot with the Tom Petty-esque Birthday Boy then lapsed into country-drone with the odd Drag The Lake Charlie. Again only two songs and not enough to judge. Bobby McFerrin gets only one song, Smile, and that is a perfect example of vocal poise and control. He even adds his own fade-out. A different song from Tuesday but still, one more from his new Vocabularies album would have been great. The only other performance is from a solo Mos Def. He raps and drums (yes drums) through the messy Quiet Dog Bite Hard until the idea runs thin and he attempts to sing. Pointless and self-indulgent.

The rest of the show is filled with a short chat with Bobby Womack (featuring a ‘jam’ with Jools), another short chat with Albarn and Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl creator) in which Jools points out that Gorillaz is a music and cartoon collaboration as much as it is a series of music ones, implying that something is lost without the pictures (in which the band appears to be from a different world), and an even shorter chat with McFerrin with an ‘impromptu’ scat session. At least Jools is now talking to the musicians and not other celebrities with books and films to plug.

As always I will be tuning in next week but probably won’t write about it again for a while. This week has again reminded me of why Later…with Jools Holland is so important, why the BBC should keep showing it (even it the Friday show is on at midnight), and why it frustrates the hell out of me.

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