Blickling Hall opened its grounds for the final weekend of this summer's musical spectaculars with Jools Holland entertaining more than 6,000 people on Saturday.
The crowd came prepared with their picnics and the site was taken over by people trying to outdo each other with their extravagant spreads.
From strawberries and cream to champagne and salmon, the boat really had been pushed out.
Not content with eating their banquets from blankets on the ground, some revellers brought along tables resplendent with table cloths, salt and pepper shakers and the odd candelabra!
Walking to the front of the stage and looking back on the crowd provided a daunting sight.
Apparently Jools doesn't like the tables too close to the stage as he likes space at the front for the crowd to dance. So standing at the front before the gig started, you could wander round freely.
However, if you turned around you were greeted by the legions of picnickers. There was row upon row of music hungry people tucking into their food like a good-mannered army setting out in preparation for battle.
Support was provided by new band The Fields, led by Jools Holland's guitarist Mark Flanagan. The three-piece took to the stage and warmed the crowd up with a country-inspired set.
|Jools' guitarist opened with his band|
Playing their self-penned songs, the country influences shone through. In particular, Carry Me Down was a song Johnny Cash would have been proud to sing. "It’s a cheerful little tune, it’s all about a funeral, sung from inside the box," was the description given by the band.
However, the crowd's mood didn't drop as The Fields' folk and blues styles prevented the set from becoming too maudlin.
They played the Dylan-esque What Would You Do with its social and political lyrics and the spaced-out Pretty Zen, apparently the band’s obligatory 'weird song'!
Despite being a trio and looking lost on the giant stage, their musicianship cut through and the sound was amazing. The PA system helped, but the band members themselves projected the music perfectly.
By the time Jools came on stage the temperature had dropped, most of the picnics were finished and people were ready to boogie!
The Rhythm and Blues Orchestra provided a striking visual contrast to The Fields with a minimum of 17 people on stage at any time.
|Jools Holland's band crowd the stage|
The crowd abandoned their deck chairs and headed towards the front to shake their stuff along to the opening jam.
By the time the sexily-voiced Sam Brown took centre stage to sing the slower Valentine Moon everybody had forgiven the harsh British summer.
His time as an interviewer enabled him to work the crowd. Although Jools Holland was not alone on stage, he was the centre of attention and he worked the crowd into a frenzy, while the boogie woogie style of music allowed the band to react to the audience to great effect.
The presence of BBC Radio Norfolk motivated Jools even more and he encouraged the crowd to sing along for "the people listening at home."
The Rhythm and Blues Orchestra took turns stepping up to the mic to take the lead solo and the crowd even had the opportunity to choose who they wanted to hear next.
But the highlight was the three-song contribution by Ruby Turner, starting with a funked-up version of Blowin’ In The Wind.
|Sam Brown gives it her all|
Arriving on stage at a time when many of the picnic blankets had been redeployed around people’s shoulders, her voice complemented the band perfectly and added the spark to re-ignite the evening.
The band eventually left the stage only to return twice for encores. The band's supreme ability was summed up by Jools laying down the gauntlet: "We're going to play a song we don't really know. It will be more fun, won't it?"
As the final notes died out, the sky to the right of the stage came alive as a barrage of fireworks was unleashed from behind the trees. In short, a fittingly spectacular end to the evening.
Jools Holland and The Rhythm and Blues Orchestra played at Blickling Hall on Saturday 23 July 2005.