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Jake & Elwood - The Best Blues Brothers Show in the World Ever!

Stage tribute to the band in the film.
New Theatre, Oxford

July 14, 2009
I was intending to be a tough nut to crack tonight, as despite a passionate love of soul music I have never particularly enjoyed a Blues Brothers show, always finding them predictable, tacky and overly commercial. However, I’m pleased to say Jake and Elwood’s show completely won me over.

Perhaps it was my deeper appreciation of blues music from watching the film Cadillac Music (an excellent depiction of the history of blues music – there, two reviews for the price of one), but I really engaged with the show and the performers – their energy and passion took the show to a different level than run of the mill Blues Brothers tributes. Backed by the talented Black Rhino Band – in particular featuring an outstanding performance by John Paul on guitar – the performers had great chemistry, humour and put on an excellent show.

The audience, predictably, was predominantly white middle class, which was stereotypical of a blue-eyed soul performance in Oxford. However, I was really impressed with the energy and engagement from the audience (despite a quiet start). From the second half of the show, as soon as Jake demanded the audience get up, every single person I could see was on their feet, dancing and singing along.I saw one man who must have been well over 70 enthusiastically shaking his tail feather, and it was a great atmosphere.

On a practical note, as usual the New Theatre’s air conditioning is appalling for a venue of this size and prestige, and the stall seats extremely uncomfortable for anyone over about 4’10” – it was more cramped than being on a budget aeroplane, and when I danced I was worried wiggling my hips would knock the glasses off the woman next to me (because she was sitting down, not because she was vertically challenged).

Highlights were versions of Soul Man, Sitting on the Dock of the Bay, Think, and a great montage by a James Brown tribute singer – the show was polished, professional and passionate, and I’m pleased to say Oxford really did sing the blues tonight.

The show is coming back for a Christmas special performance on December 20th – highly recommended.
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