REVIEW - Jools Holland & his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, Sheffield City Hall

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Jools could not have been more apologetic.

Six weeks late, he was. But "better late than never" was the belated festive motto of the crowd that packed the City Hall to the rafters.

Holland & his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra normally swing into town to impart Christmas revelry in early December.

But snow had them stranded in a Bradford curry house. Yet possibly the nicest audience you could ever meet at the City Hall simply accepted their belated Christmas present - and boogied.

That uplifting big band sound - the sight of an entire stage of first-rate musicians striving for excellence and enjoying every minute - how can you not? I defy even the most hardened party-pooper not to get on down at what is surely the best of the year, be it at the end, or the beginning.

Early doors Muddy Waters and Fats Waller songs chased away the January blues and the night showcased numbers from the new studio album Rockinghorse, a 19 track collection of classic Holland compositions, interpretations and covers, plus vocal performances from a collection of ultra-special guests.

We were treated to some of them on stage -the brilliantly soulful tones of Louise Marshall, a touch of class from Rosie Mae and a simply stunning You Are So Beautiful from the ever-superb Ruby Turner.

Sensation of the evening, though, was Alison Moyet, also a guest performer on Rockinghorse. Ultra-slim with long and sleek red hair, she was almost unrecognisable.

But the voice was unmistakable. Deep and smoky, she reminded us of from whence she came with an up-tempo version of All I Needed Was The Love You Gave. It's still a beautiful song, but far better suited to her were the big band numbers she smouldered through. She sang Love Letters Straight From My Heart with as much magic as Garland.

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