Monday, November 6

Just The Music Please

He's an oily sycophant, but Jools Holland's Later is still the best late night programme on TV, says Dennis Flower

Someone suggested I write the review for Later with Jools Holland (Friday,BBC2, 11.35) immediately after it finished while still under the influence. Good job I didn’t as I’d staggered in and heard a few bars of the final song, sitting down as the credits rolled up the screen. So this review would have consisted of swearing and a list of everyone involved in the production of the show.

Luckily for me ­ but unfortunate for anyone having to read this drivel ­ I’d taped it. So as soon as the throbbing in my head reduced to a dull ache the next day, it was on. Having read the other reviews on this site, I’d made my mind up to follow the tell-like-it-is style. The problem is that it’s one of my favourite programmes, and the first of the new series has again endorsed my addiction.

Yes, I realise Jools Holland comes across like an oily sycophant when he sucks up to his various guests, but these consist of brief segments in between the music. They’re a bit like Christmas, hair loss and the England football team losing on penalties in their latest competition: you know it’s coming so get over it!

The show itself has been established on a very basic premise: Five bands taking it in turn to play live ­ yes, live! ­ in the studio. There’s usually a guest that Holland pretends gamely to interview and he also chats briefly to some of the performers. And While the majority of people on the show are there to promote their latest release, the show is still far more enjoyable than having to listen to actors/writers/composers etc blather on about their latest stuff on vacuous chat shows.

I’ve no doubt there’s all manner of back-stage politics ­ (the band will only appear if you get their CD in front of the camera, and don’t mention them in the same sentence as those other tossers). But Holland manages to present the show with the air of an avuncular ring master. Muse was the star band this week and set the tone by opening the show with a rendition of Starlight that would probably have proved fatal if I hadn’t let the hangover subside first.

Of course, if you have the same level of interest in contemporary music as Charles Kennedy has in soft drinks, Later is a complete non starter. But the chances are that most people will find something of interest in the line up. Muse, described in The Times’ TV guide as ‘purveyors of a grandiose,space-inspired rock’ ­ so a rock band, basically ­ blasted their way through three tracks at the start, middle and end of the show. Great stuff. I’d have watched it just for them.

None of Amy Winehouse, the Raconteurs, John Legend, Duke Special and the Gypsy Kings would be on my wish list but all proved enjoyable at various levels. But with a complete absence of exposed nipple-induced titillation this show is not run-of-the-mill late night viewing. There’s an almost complete absence of gyrating, scantily-clad dancers ­ although they would prove a welcome diversion occasionally ­ with the main focus always kept on the music. It remains one of the very few shows that I’ll watch for the full, one hour duration, even when it’s pre-recorded.

The mix of music is always diverse, and even performers that I’ve come to detest are brought down to the same level as everyone else as they’re forced to concentrate on their performance rather than posturing. I hope Jools Holland continues with this show for many years to come. Oh, and by the way, I rather enjoyed it, in case you hadn't guessed.

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