EDitorial ± 6-Oct-2016

Later With Jools Holland

For some years, me and friend Tom have been applying for (free) tickets to go see Later being recorded live. For some years, we've received that familiar let-you-down email saying "We're sorry to let you know that on this occasion you have been unsuccessful." Then, around 6pm on Sep 28th, an email arrived:

Your application has been successful and your e-Tickets are attached.
We look forward to seeing you at the show.

I called Tom. Tom made some calls. Tom couldn't make it. I spoke to G. G considered her work diary. G couldn't make it. I spoke to Jeff. He had some words. Jeff could make it. Game on.

You may know that Later's USP is the fact that it's live, being broadcast on a Tuesday from 10 to 10:30pm. Reading the small print about "we send out more tickets than there are places", we arrived at Maidstone Studios around 6pm to join a queue of fellow punters. Tickets checked, in we trooped to buy a drink and a sandwich in the anonymous waiting room, a sizeable area with not quite enough chairs. Fair bit of waiting and chit-chat before the 8:15pm-ish summons. I'd guess around 200 people were there being called through 50 or so at a time. Brief walk, down a corridor and boom, here's the Later studio. Wow.

I suspect they often play with the layout, but at the moment the audience are shunted into four corners, each dark-clothed group (follow the dress code) arranged on a stepped right-angle podium. All action on the studio floor and all acts present. To our right, James Vincent McMorrow. To our left, Tom Chaplin, him from Keane. Over there, hard-rocking Twin Atlantic. Way over there, Blackberry Smoke, with Madeleine Peyroux perched on a chair. No big names, to be honest, but hey.

With everyone on their marks and us having been schooled in how to applaud, out strolls diminutive Jools (who I guess I last saw in concert with Squeeze about 1986) and the cameras being to roll, 'cos they film an hour-long show first. Bands play their carefully selected numbers, Jools chats with Tom about his drug problem, Twin Atlantic make a noise, and the sounds are all great. There's the odd break for continuity and then the hour is up. Fifteen minutes until we're live, says one of the many young ladies who apparently run the studio floor.

Ten pm, credits music plays over the in-house speakers, and we're off, the array of cameras darting in and out and around Jools and the acts as he calmly works his way through show number 349. Most bands reprise an earlier song, Madeleine does a different jazzy guitar number, and all too soon we're done. Did we record that?, asks the executive producer. Yes, it's confirmed. Studio audience, he says, you may go. Thanks for coming. Shame not to see The National or Kate Tempest or Iggy Pop, but nevermind. Quite the experience, all free, and my application is already in for more tickets.