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

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JOOLS at Yule is now one of my Christmas traditions.

Six years on the turkey trot, I’ve launched myself into the festive season from a seat at a Holland and company gig.

Year on year, it’s been a better annual hoot than even the Beano hardback. But this year’s was the icing on the Christmas cake; the brandy on the pudding.

It wasn’t so much a concert as a party. The Boogie Woogie man was in fizzing form - and this year there seemed to be more of a starring role. Deservedly so. Flexy piano fingers on fast-forward, he belted out reworked vintage jazz and blues classics, including from his new album released this week, The Golden Age of Song, an uplifting version of Louis Armstrong’s 1929-er When You’re Smiling.

Special guest was Holland’s old mate, former Fine Young Cannibals frontman Roland Gift. By heck, he’s still got it; the voice is soulfully supreme, yet with bite. He gave us his hit version of Elvis’s Suspicious Minds, I’m Not The Man I Used To Be plus No.1 hits She Drives Me Crazy and Good Thing – the latter being the most successful record Jools ever guested on.

Holland’s always superb 20-piece big band all got their turn in the spotlight, the priceless gem that is Ruby Turner bringing the entire house to its feet and drummer Gilson Lavis (Jools’s old Squeeze bandmate) receiving the most tumultuous applause for what Holland described as “one of the best drum solos you will ever see in the world.”

We didn’t doubt him.