Is there no end to Hugh Laurie's unfeasibly large array of talents? As if it wasn't enough that the celebrated British comic is also the highest-paid actor on US television for his starring role in House, he has translated his life-long passion for blues into a debut album, showcased by this, his first UK headline show.
"I feel like I have a rich uncle who has gone away for the weekend and left me with the keys to his Ferrari," Laurie says in gleeful reverence for the "legendary" members of the five-piece band standing beside him. Unlike the majority of actors-turned-musicians, whose genre is famously plagued by egotistical twaddle, the A Bit of Fry and Laurie star has been a humble apologist for his recent official foray into blues, the music he says has "lived in my blood and my brain" since he was a child. "I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American South," he said in anticipation of the new album, Let Them Talk. "If that weren't bad enough, I'm also an actor..."
But this set shows Laurie has nothing to apologise for. The opener, "St James Infirmary", underlines his assertion that his music is not intended to sit cleanly with the iconic New Orleans set and is merely an anglicised product of his adoration of the genre. This offers a fresh approach, and with early traces of nerves firmly set aside, Laurie's eerie keys and drawled Americanised vocals flourish – more than holding their own on this song's grand, haunting roars.
Laurie's blues almost border on gospel, if only for the powerful devotion he exudes throughout this set of musical tributes to the long list of greats who have moved him. Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell are fêted on the laid-back "Six Cold Feet" (Vincent Henry's tenor sax solo shined), Champion Jack Dupree evoked on the gentle, melancholy "Careless Love", and Jelly Roll Morton celebrated on "Winin' Boy Blues", for which Canadian guitarist Kevin Breit offers such impressive string trills, Laurie can't help but term it "ridiculous".
But "Let Them Talk", the album's title track, serves as the set's most poignant offering and is a triumphant two-fingered salute to the doubters. "Mr Laurie – you rock!" shouts a member of the audience, who award Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band two standing ovations. "You're awfully kind," he smiles, modest as ever.Reuse content