FEATURE: Later…with Jools Holland at Twenty-Five



 Later…with Jools Holland at Twenty-Five


AN established and legendary music show is on its fifty-first series….


and will take to the stage of the Royal Albert Hall in a few days. If one goes to the website of the Royal Albert Hall they can find out how to get a ticket and the acts that are involved that night. If you are a bit lazy, or want a general overview; they bottle it down to this:

Jools Holland brings his iconic music television show to the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate 25 years, 50 series and over 360 programmes on BBC Two.

Featuring a typically eclectic blend of signature artists including major stars, legends, artists of the moment and brand new talents across genres from rock ‘n’ roll to jazz and all points in between, this multi-artist show will be filmed in the round, filling the Hall’s main stage and floor with artists in the style of the Later… studio as seen on TV.


IN THIS PHOTO: The artists who will perform at the twenty-fifth anniversary of the show

See the Later… experience as normally enjoyed only by a few in the television studio now laid bare in the bowl of the Royal Albert Hall. For one night only, this magical musical mystery tour, with a special line-up, will celebrate Later… with Jools Hollands’ commitment to all manner of musicians and musics that matter!

The show will feature old friends of the show and some new ones – Foo FightersPaul WellerVan MorrisonDizzee RascalKT TunstallGregory PorterKali UchisCamilleSonghoy Blues and Jorja Smith.


IN THIS PHOTO: Jorja Smith, who will be among the musicians celebrating Later...with Jools Holland at the Royal Albert Hall

The xx and Royal Blood were among the artists that helped bring the fiftieth series to a rousing conclusion. Two days ago, there was an A-Z of Later…with Jools Holland on BBC 2 - and it was a wonderful chance to see musicians brought together to provide their views on the long-lasting series. Many compared Jools Holland’s show to a cordial battle-of-the-bands. There is no competition or rivalry: more a group (of) of-the-moment musicians performing at the top of their game. Before I come to my views and what makes the show so special; a look (via Wikipedia) at the show’s origins and development:

Later... with Jools Holland (previously known as ...Later with Jools Holland) is a contemporary British music television show hosted by Jools Holland. A spin-off of The Late Show, it has been running in short series since 1992 and is a part of BBC Two's late-night line-up, usually at around 11 pm to 12 midnight. The day of transmission has varied, but currently it is usually recorded on a Tuesday for Friday broadcast[1] and features a mixture of both established and new musical artists, from solo performers to bands and larger ensembles.


  The show is considered an institution, having notched up millions of fans around the world.[2] It is currently broadcast in America on MTV Live (formerly known as Palladia); previously it had been shown on OvationBBC AmericaFuse, and Dave. The Ovation and Fuse broadcasts leave out several performances (and usually one or two performers entirely) to air commercials within a one-hour timeslot. It is also shown in Australia on the UKTV channel and ABC2, in Canada on HIFI and AUX TV, in Germany on ZDFkultur, in Spain on Canal+ Xtra, in Croatia on HRT 2, in Latin America on Film&Arts and in Belgium, France, PortugalSwitzerland, and the United Arab Emirates on iConcerts HD.

The 200th programme was broadcast on 1 February 2008.[3] The 250th edition was broadcast in September 2010.

In 2008, the head rock and pop critic of The GuardianAlexis Petridis, claimed the programme featured a "distinct lack of spontaneity" and was failing to showcase enough dance music, pop, hip-hop, experimental music or present R&B artists. He also argued "all the artists it breaks are essentially the same: MOR singer-songwriters".[6]

In 2010, Joe Elliott, lead singer of rock band Def Leppard, criticised the programme for excluding the band from appearing on it, claiming "Jools Holland won't have us on his show because we're not cool enough."[7] Executive producer Mark Cooper responded to this comment in 2013, claiming: "The aim is to put together the best mix from various genres. We’re not thinking, 'Oh no, we’ve never had Def Leppard on, we owe them one'." Cooper acknowledged that the series had "not had much metal" but denied accusations that it was "snobby" about pop acts”.[8]

It is easy to argue against critics who say Later… is an elitist and snobbish format. It does not exclude artists and is one of the most all-inclusive and varied shows I know. There is a camp that says it does not feature enough Dance and Pop artists but is designed to feature the best and brightest acts. Not many ‘classic’ artists are featured if they do not have new material out. Maybe there is a sense of ‘cool’ and contemporary about the show but it does not shut its door to music’s variegated and broad spectrum. On 26th of this month; Liam Gallagher, Benjamin Clementine and Nadia Reid will join LCD Soundsystem, Jorja Smith and Jimmy Webb. That line-up is of-the-moment and cool but there is no difference to the ethos and structure of Later… and stations like BBC Radio 6 Music. Nobody criticises the station for not including a lot of Thrash and mainstream Pop. Each show or station has its own dynamic and breakdown. Later… has featured Pop in the past and is a broad-church that is not keen to exclude. There are limits and cut-offs but looking at the series fifty-one opener and there is a range of genres and tastes among the cut. The show’s helm and frontman has been interviewing to promote the big anniversary. Some of the most-recent series have brought together everyone from Kano and Paul Simon through to Ed Sheeran and Haley Bonar.

I cannot understand anyone who claims the show is snobbish and restricted. It takes from music of the moment but casts its net over a huge range of sounds. I agree there are very few mainstream Pop artists and Country acts but the show has always been keen to focus on quality and currency – if it opens the doors to anyone then it loses appeal and the quality goes down.  Older, established bands/artists have been on Later… so the likes of, say, Def Leppard making complaints, is a little strange – the fact a band like that would not be included is down to a lack of quality and potency rather than them being prejudiced. The same goes for a lot of Pop in the charts. That music has its audience but it lacks the allure and pull that warrants a place on Later… The show is a not a drop-off for any artist promoting a song: it is for the best artists around who can get the audiences hooked and make a real impact. There is no sense of pushing people away or limiting the type of artists that are featured. Later… is intended to put the best music on the screen and that, in an age where there are so few music shows, is why it continues to thrive. Consider past years when we have had the likes of Top of the Pops on our screens. Music is because more digitalised and insular – in terms of promotion – and the wealth of music T.V. is down to this one show.

The reason Jools Holland’s show has survived so long is for a number of reasons. The magnitude, passion and likeability of the host, yes, is why so many people tune in. Holland is an enthusiast who has the desire to put all kinds of musicians into the studio. It is rare and almost alien-like finding a T.V. show with a live audience that has no gimmicks – it is musicians performing tracks and that, is essentially, it. Little chat and brainless promotion; you do not get the drawn-out interviews you might hear on radio. It is all about the music and keeps things pure and simple. That battle-of-the-bands-style format is a tried and true thing. The fact Top of the Pops died is because it lost an edge and sense of purpose. It seemed dated and was a bit old and creaky as we moved into the streaming-age. Later…with Jools Holland has never relied on bright lights, chart acts and anything cheap. It is a pure and unchanged show that continues to bring us the best music around. One of the reasons I love it is because there is that mixture of cultures, styles and ages. One can find an older/established act like Robert Plant or PJ Harvey. You have the newcomers and underground acts on the same bill as legends and titans. There are no egos and reservations at all: any musician who can put in a great performance is welcomed on the show. Each episode has a great blend of sounds and never relies solely on Rock, Alternative or Soul.

M83 feat Mai Lan.jpg

IN THIS PHOTO: M83 and Mai Lan performing on Later...

These days; survival and durability is a dying pleasure. So few people can maintain successful and evolving careers; T.V. shows never last that long and the only way music-lovers can hear true and quality musicians is through the radio. I am a devotee of stations like BBC Radio 6 Music but want the chance to see their kind of musician perform on stage. The live music scene is dwindling and threatened so it is always good finding a show that puts the prominence and focus on the live performance. One can argue shows like Later…with Jools Holland is responsible for inspiring people to go to gigs and embrace venues. It is always great seeing Holland join a guest and play piano: he gets involved and loves to be a part of the mix. He is a great interviewer and has that charming and down-to-earth conversational style. Seeing musicians relax and causally chat to Holland is contrasted by their electric and stunning performances. Over the years, and through the series, we have witnessed amazing performances that stay in the mind.

It is great to see a show that has seven-eight guests and does not feel the need to adapt and evolve to fit with the digital age. Imagine if it booked its guests on the strength of Spotify figures and what was trending. That would be ghastly and galling! Later… is all about quality and the true spirit of music. Anyone who dares strike against such ethics and morals has no right to call themselves music fans. Take a look at the fifty series of Later… and one will find so many genres and artists on the list. That will continue for many years to come and remain the sole source of T.V. music. The twenty-fifth-anniversary show at the Royal Albert Hall is a worthy celebration of a show that continues to amaze, compel and inspire. Jools Holland is the ever-enthusiastic curator and amazes me with that constant verve and energy. Long may the show continue and bring the people the best and boldest musicians from around the world. I have found so many artists and new discoveries through later. Jools Holland’s show is a tastemaker in the same way John Peel was at his peak. The formats are different but one is allowed the chance to unearth brilliant new acts on Later… It is not only about the mainstream and what is hot at the moment. Who knows how far the show can go but, in an age of disposability, seeing something survive and grow is truly inspiring and rewarding. If you cannot get to the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday; make sure you tune into the opening edition of the fifty-first series and see some awesome musicians captivate and enthral. Raise a glass to Jools Holland and an amazing BBC dynasty. It is Later… but there are plenty more great years…


 IN THIS PHOTO: Sonnghoy Blues, who are among the musicians who kick-start the next series

IN this incredible show (sorry for the poor time-related/’later’ pun!)