There was a kid like it in everyone’s school.
You know the sort. He was captain of the football team, the cleverest, he got the girl you fancied at the school disco – but you know what? He was so cool and friendly you liked him too.
RTM has never met Hugh Laurie but you suspect that there is an element of that going on with him. From the fresh faced youngster on Jeeves and Wooster on Sunday nights in the 1980s, to the Prince Regent or George in the funniest series’ of Blackadder, Laurie moved on to become the highest paid actor in the world, with House.
Then, he decides to have a go at music and damn him, if he doesn’t do that superbly as well. It is enough to make anyone jealous.
It is tempting to have ago at the actor-turned-musician thing. This, however, is no Stefan Dennis moment. Say what you like about all the bandwagon jumpers in the 1980s and 1990s but the cast of Neighbours never recorded covers of Jelly Roll Morton and Bessie Smith.
This, it seems, is something of a labour of love for Laurie – who has long professed a love of New Orleans Blues and Jazz going back to childhood. And, if his fame in other fields has made this a sold-out show, such a thing will only last if the music is good.
Happily, it isn’t just good. It is absolutely brilliant.
Laurie, let’s face it, isn’t short of a bob or two. This means that he can surround himself with the best possible musicians. He has done that with his quite stunning ensemble The Copper Bottom Band.
They take the stage first, before Laurie, dressed in a long jacket and suit (he claims to be going for the “riverboat gambler” look but jokes he has just about “pulled off snooker player”)and proceed for the next to turn this part of Birmingham into a bar in Louisiana.
The fine horn section, led by Vincent Henry on trombone, is soon into action, with “Iko Iko” kicking things off, before “Let The Good Times Roll” gives us an lengthy monologue from Laurie before an audience participation moment.
The nominal front man of the troupe, Laurie, like on the albums, takes a spell in the shadows, preferring to let the quite magnificent Jean McLean sing a number of tracks. The version of Bessie Smith’s “Send Me To The Electric Chair” is perhaps best of all, but really anything McLean touches this evening is worth the admission price alone.
Covers of “Wild Honey” by Doctor John and Elvis’s “Mystery Train” soon follow, while the first encore, which includes “Go To The Mardi Gras” by Professor Longhair is only just eclipsed by the closer of Ray Charles “Never Can Tell.”
Laurie had announced that it was “the only way to finish the evening.” On this and so many other things, he was spot on tonight. This really was an evening to leave your preconceptions at the door and just celebrate some marvelous music.
Given his day job it is hard to know if Laurie’s reaction is genuine, but throughout he wears a huge grin, frequently looking bewildered as if he can’t quite believe he is being given the chance to follow his dream.
“Bravo” as the Prince Regent might have said.