Later... with Jools Holland: in the studio | TV reviews, news & interviews
Later... with Jools Holland: in the studio
Does the BBC's flagship rock show still have a role as it starts its 36th series?
Welcome to the grown-up rock mothership. I've seen bands play in TV studios plenty of times over the years, but walking into the Later... With Jools Holland recording at BBC Television Centre for the first time, as I did last night, is something else. Studios generally have a disappointing feeling of smallness, or of looking behind the curtain to reveal artifice, but this genuinely was like stepping into the TV screen: the circle of bands and punters exactly as you see it when the camera spins around in the show's intro.
For full disclosure, I should say here that I have never been a fan of the show as such. While it has often hosted great performances, it seemed to stand for a powerful conservatism, a slightly patronising approach to artists outside the standard rock blueprint, and an awful obsession with a concept of “jamming” that has nothing to do with improvisation and surprise and everything to do with old farts going through the motions. So to speak. However, nobody could deny the resilience of the format, which, as it enters its 36th series since 1992, makes it now astonishingly the only dedicated music show on prime-time terrestrial television.
The way the audience is treated is the most relaxed I've ever witnessed in a studio. Last night there was a distinct lack of officious herding and shushing by clipboard-bearers, drinks and mobiles were allowed on the floor, and the artists themselves were lounging within touching distance. In fact the overall “vibe” really was, superficially at least, as relaxed as one could wish for in a rock show – a very strange fusion of being simultaneously backstage, onstage and in the crowd at the most high-class festivals.
But through it all swing the cameras and their attendant cable-carriers, cue-card holders, floor managers and sound technicians with all the gliding efficiency one might expect on a show of 18 years' standing, constantly reminding us that we're not kicking back at a festival but are in the heart of a very slick and seemingly unstoppable machine.
And at the heart of it all was Jools, his slightly stuttery genial everyman persona entirely in evidence at all times even as the tons of technology and swarm of black-clad staff circled him, his warming-up of the crowd with clapping and chanting participation casting him as a kind of adenoidal family-friendly shaman. And so we were swept into the recording of this weekend's show – for which, ambitiously, barely 90 minutes was allotted for a 60-minute show.
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