As I’m writing this, my hands are still very sore from all the clapping. So let’s not waste time, on with the review.
The pre-show was very interesting. Since I had come alone, I was curious to know who I would be sitting next to. The person directly behind me – and this is absolutely true – was also called Ben! This coincidence amazed me. But the man seated next to him was a man that I immediately recognised as someone who would get on my nerves. Before the show had even begun he was asking his family what flavour ice creams they wanted in the interval. I’m pretty sure that’s the main reason he came out tonight, to get a little tub of ice cream. The woman sat next to me – and this will give you an idea of how far back I was – had brought with her a pair of binoculars. Not that I ever got to see them in action as she left during the interval and never returned.
As I settled into my seat and the man next to me nudged my arm off the armrest, Hugh Laurie came on to thunderous applause and introduced the support act, before telling us “I will be back in numbers. These instruments aren’t just for show. Well, the piano is.” I could tell that his role as a comedian was still very much present.
The support act itself was Bruno Major. A fairly generic singer/guitarist but actually very good. It was just him and a guitar. His guitar echoed in the silent hall and his voice created an emotive atmosphere that captivated the audience. He admitted most of his songs were about his ex and made a bit of a joke about it. He also made a few jokes between songs, like “They told me it was in tune when I bought it.” and played some nice songs, including a Ray Charles cover. A brave choice for someone who is supporting a full blues band. He also did the typical “This is the nicest place I’ve ever played” line that is now customary for all performers.
The one thing that did spoil it slightly for me at this point was the man sat behind me. As I guessed earlier he quickly began to annoy me. After the support act had left and the interval begun, the man – let’s call him Mr Moaner – moaned about the act for the duration of the interval. He said the singer “kept tuning his guitar too much” – what, you’d rather him play out of tune?! – and that he mumbled when he spoke. This was false, I heard every word. But Mr Moaner continued to slate young singers in general, who he said mumble and talk too fast. At one point I felt like turning round and shouting “Shut up you ultracrepidarian!” (A word which means ‘someone who gives an opinion on something beyond their knowledge’). He even said at one point during the act “What guitar is that? It looks like a erm… An electric guitar.” This man was a fool! I bet he couldn’t name half of the instruments on stage. See that one there… That’s a piano! Pee-an-oh. Okay, I’m going off on a rant now. Anyway, one more thing he moaned about was the stage.
From the very beginning the stage was dressed ready for the show, and the set was beautifully designed with antiques including rugs, lamps and a birdcage.. It was a set that perfectly fit the style of the band. Every detail was thought through. Even the soundcheckers were dressed in overalls and flat caps, like removal men. Another feature Mr Moaner moaned about.
But enough of the interval. Now onto the show itself.
The Copper Bottom band – brilliant name by the way – entered first to begin playing an introduction for the man himself, Hugh Laurie.
The reason the show worked so well was the incredible range of music played throughout. From blues to jazz to even tango, the set paid tribute to all genres and showcased the talents of each member of The Copper Bottom Band, as well as the singing, piano/guitar playing and extraordinary dancing of Mr Laurie himself.
The worrying thing that always crosses a fan’s mind when seeing any favourite band live is ‘will they play my favourite songs?’. And I’m pleased to report I was not disappointed. They played my three favourite tracks off the new album (The Weedsmoker’s Dream, Didn’t It Rain, Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair) as well as a few unexpected choices that made a pleasant surprise.
The first of these favourited tracks, The Weed Smoker’s Dream, was sung by the marvellous Gaby Moreno. I loved the track from the first time I heard it, largely due to Moreno’s sweet, innocent voice, and hearing it live was a real treat. It was one of those songs that make you want to close your eyes and let it completely consume you, despite the fact that you payed £25 to watch them perform it. One thing that did strike me though, was that although Moreno played ukulele – love a girl with a uke! – and guitar on some of the songs, her playing was inaudible. This was probably because she was just playing rhythm accompaniment, but it still felt like she was just playing along for the sake of it.
The involvement of the entire band made it feel like Hugh Laurie was ‘hosting’ the night. At many points during the concert, Laurie’s modesty was expressed by him constantly praising the rest of the band and highlighting how exceptional each artist was. Such modesty from a man who is a global star in many different respects is quite comforting and reassuring to know that a ‘celebrity’ can be a genuinely nice person without being arrogant.
The show ended with 2 encores. The first of which featured the aforementioned ‘surprise’ song Mardi Gras In New Orleans, which was also used as the theme to A Bit of Fry & Laurie. So this was quite nostalgic but also interesting to hear the tune in its entirety. After the first interval, the majority of my row upped and left. I noticed that the house lights were still down, so I waited for more. And I was rewarded, as were we all, with the band’s rendition of Let The Good Times Roll.
It was during this final song that I thought how impressive it was that the band had managed to encourage the audience to clap along for the duration of at least 3 songs throughout the evening. I have been to concerts before where everybody gives up half way through, but this crowd was in love with what they were hearing and were really going for it with the clapping. Even Mr Moaner behind joined in at one point.
Overall the show was a great night, not just because of the music but also the atmosphere. Hugh Laurie lived up to expectations and I have a deeper love for blues music from tonight.
Our rating: (5 / 5)