Jools Holland season 40, Episode Four Review

There is no TV show I look forward to each week more than Live… With Jools Holland.

Really, it’s the only show I’ve been watching that has kept me captivated and surprised every week since I started watching. It began to shape my young mind years ago, and has had a huge influence on my musical taste since then. It’s a show that takes a great joy in both celebrated acclaimed artists, and introducing you to new ones. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take cues from Jools for The Underground.

For those of you who don’t know, Live… With Jools Holland is a pretty prestigious weekly show that airs in the UK, where the host, Jools Holland, interviews and promotes various artists and musicians. Playing on the show for the first time is a major landmark for an artist, and will usually represent the first step of a European tour. The show is mostly made up of live performance, with Jools occasionally joining one of the bands as a pianist. He is one of those people who is so, so good at an instrument that it mainly just makes you angry.

So, let’s start our journey into Jools Holland’s wonderful world with series 40 (40!), episode four, featuring Sir Tom Jones, Plan B, Django Django, Ren Harvieu, Punch Brothers and Melody Gardot!

I always find British rap to be a strange thing. It’s so much dirtier than US rap, even in the case of Plan B, who open the show with a flurry of strings and percussion. It’s weird to hear people rapping about, literally, “making the rich kids wish they stayed inside” featuring a violinist covering his face with a hood. Still, Plan B brought their A game (Haha!) this show, with every member of the band getting totally absorbed into the music in each song. Jools later sat down with Ben Drew, who outlined the start on his long journey into filmmaking and his first place as a director in the coming Ill Manors.

Ren Harvieu provided an odd counterweight to Plan B. Unfamiliar with the artist, I thought it was strange she would get second song on the show, especially considering how huge the contrast was compared to the previous act. She sang a safe, by-the-numbers soft, country-esquire ballad, and while she really did have a nice accompaniment, she didn’t do much to sell the song. Perhaps it was down to how oddly her first song was sandwiched between Django Django and Plan B, though. She felt complimented well by Melody Gardot, who played smooth, mambo while also not really escalating to anything overly dramatic or abrasive.

Tom Jones didn’t play his first song until halfway through the episode. Every song the man performs seems more a demonstration of his voice than anything else. Even his slower music resonates with the incredible power of his vocals. Tom Jones standing in front of a microphone really is a big deal, still. Jools spoke to Tom Jones and joined him on the piano later in the show. The two work well together, with a huge mutual respect being very clear.

The biggest surprise of the show though had to be Punch Brothers performance of “Movement and Location”. I always love seeing a band working in tandem with one another, and it’s an especially gratifying sight with Bluegrass. It’s so much work to create such a delicate, underplayed sound. From the first few seconds you hear the banjo at such a high octave and the double bass, the song has you hooked. The strings made for an excellent build and provided a nice foreshadowing to the highs the vocalist would eventually reach. It’s a song with a great deal of subtly to the composition, but it all came together perfectly and was, for me, the stand out performance of the episode.

Django Django are a band who, judging from their performance on tonight’s episode, I would assume sound better in studio. The acoustics on set really didn’t mix with their vocals, and it constantly felt like the band where further away from the audience than they were.

Plan B again took centre to close out the show, and it felt appropriate. Overall this episode doesn’t really compare to the last two episodes, which were excellent, though it still provided plenty of entertaining performances and food for thought.

If you’re in the UK, watch the full episode here!


We're looking for writers and editors to join the team. Interested? Apply today!