Jools Holland at the Royal Albert Hall

I have many fond memories of weekends spent at my grandmother’s house, watching old movies and, sometimes, on Saturdays, an episode of Later… with Jools Holland to round off the evening. Thanks to this late-night show, I discovered some of my favourite artists, from Irish post-punk band, Fontaines D.C., to American rock and blues group, Alabama Shakes. Although these particular acts were not present at the Royal Albert Hall on 24th November, I didn’t despair completely. Jools Holland himself – not to mention his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, as well as his extensive roster of guests – were enough to keep the evening exciting. One talented musician after another emerged from the wings, with Ruby Turner, Louise Marshall, and Sumudu Jayatilaka all making guest appearances over the course of the night. A personal highlight (and I think I speak on behalf of most Ertegun scholars on this occasion) was the performance of ska pioneer band, The Selectors, whose hit “Too Much Pressure” became a bit of an earworm for the rest of the evening. It was difficult not to bop along. Scholars who were unfamiliar with Jools were also impressed by his witty banter with the audience, and of course his skill on the piano.

Thanks to the generosity of Ertegun board member, Harvey Goldsmith, we were privileged to have prime position in the Grand Tier box. This was not only luxuriously comfortable, replete with snacks and beverages, but it also afforded us an excellent view of Mr Holland (and the elderly audience universally jiving to “Too Much Pressure” below). Aside from the music, the trip was also an opportunity to spend some quality time with fellow Ertegun scholars. Some of us headed to London early, navigating our way to the Royal Albert Hall together and stopping for dinner along the way. A few early-birds even had to do some shopping for extra layers, as the November evening was crisper than expected.

Overall, it was both exciting and nostalgic to watch Jools Holland perform live with his characteristic gusto, charisma, and charm. Attending the performance with some of the loveliest people was yet another reminder of how lucky we are to have been recipients of such a wonderful scholarship, and to be part of such a warm and vibrant community.

Olivia Russell