Every series of Later... with Jools Holland has its moments; those performances in which singers stand, ablaze with feeling, in the centre of an erupting volcano of emotion, doing something remarkable while the studio audience and fellow musicians look on in shock and awe.
The most recent series may have just come to a close, but it was blessed with a glorious cavalcade of astonishments, the best of which are as wild and transformative as any in the show's long history.
1. Florence + the Machine - Hunger
Hunger is a song with lyrics that address an upsetting reality - the injuries people inflict upon themselves to try and fill an emotional hole - with honesty, courage and fathomless compassion. Clearly relishing the chance to exorcise her own demons, Florence skits about the Later... studio floor, barefoot and impassioned, looking down the camera long enough to make her point and then whirling away.
2. Young Fathers - Toy
This is a truly gripping performance. Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and 'G' Hastings - each dressed like they belong to a different group - writhe back and forth like a basket of snakes, sometimes singing, sometimes hissing, sometimes screaming, while their punishing rhythm builds in intensity and sharp, white noise scythes around the studio. And then, incredibly, things get even wilder as the beat speeds up.
3. Christine and the Queens - Girlfriend
For a TV show that has a reputation for prizing unfussy presentation, Later... does a very good job with performers who want to make a bit of a song and dance about things. Like Christine, back for another startling performance after wowing the Later... audience with her Prince tribute in 2016. Her dance troupe is closer in spirit to West Side Story than a stadium pop gig, and for Girlfriend, there's even a little theatrical introduction, so the whole song becomes a pocket performance about the rigours of attraction, with a superb soundtrack.
4. Shame - One Rizla
A great Later... performance is all about how you deliver the music, and South London's Shame play scuffed indie rock like it's their last chance to prove they mean something. Singer Charlie Steen quickly strips his white boiler suit to the waist, as if his clothes were restricting his ability to scream out his words - "Well I'm not much to look at / And I ain't much to hear" - while his bandmates wrestle their instruments, which seem to be constantly fighting to escape their clutches.
5. Lady Leshurr - Black Panther
Few artists have made as good use of the Later... studio as Lady Leshurr, and even fewer on their debut performance. Starting at the tables normally reserved for Jools Holland's interviews, she starts off smirking and cocksure, just letting the rhythm play out, then leaps up to stride out across the floor, blasting out rhymes like she owns the place. Then she has a little dance with Florence, gets the audience to clap along and returns to where she started, job done.
6. St Vincent - Masseduction
Making a welcome return to Later... Annie Clark pulled out all the stops for the title track of her sixth album. Dressed in a British racing green rubber catsuit and standing on a plinth (on exceptional high heels) next to masked bandmates, she performs Masseduction like the song has an erotic charge, making her cry out, buckle at the knees and indulge in obscene slide guitar eruptions. By the time the saxophone player arrives, you'll probably want to take a cold shower.
7. Gwenno - Tir Ha Mor
Gwenno is not the first performer to grace the Later... studio singing in a language that is not English, but she's almost certainly the first to sing melancholy electropop in Cornish. Her 2018 album Le Kov (which translates as "the place of memory") was written and sung in the Cornish language, which she grew up speaking, thanks to strenuous efforts from her father. Her musical background is far broader though, as she's been one of Michael Flatley's Irish dancers, of member of indiepop group The Pipettes and even had a stint as Elton John's synth player.
8. The Breeders - Wait in the Car
Later... started in 1992, the same year Kim Deal's day job with Pixies was coming to an end. She ploughed her energies into her other band, The Breeders, enlisting her twin sister Kelley and recording the highly-regarded album Last Splash. Then things fell apart, then they fell back together, Pixies reformed, Kim left and now The Breeders are back and sounding as ferocious and otherworldly as ever. Wait in the Car is from their tremendous 2018 album All Nerve.
9. Starcrawler - I Love LA
Every series of Jools has a performance by a snotty new band who leave viewers wondering, "Who was THAT?" and this time that role fell to LA glam classicists Starcrawler. Jittery guitarist Henri Cash makes enough of a spectacle of himself blamming out scabrous riffs on his guitar while flicking the tassels on his shirt left and right, but it's the aptly-named Arrow de Wilde (she's tremendously aerodynamic) who really siezes the eye. A beanpole vision in a white jewel-encrusted catsuit, with wings, of the sort that Justin Hawkins of The Darkness might consider a little OTT, she preens and struts and howls, standing stock still one second and stretching across the floor the next.
10. Lily Allen - Three
What could be less explosive and generally rock 'n' roll than a song from the perspective of a three-year-old girl pining for her mother? Well, when the mother in question is Lily Allen, and she wrote Three as a self-lacerating lament for her poor mothering skills, the raw feelings in the song more than make up for any lack of musical rowdiness. Lily's daughter Mamie had been struggling with the amount of time her mum was spending away from home, and that innocence and ache come out in this performance, aided by accompaniment from Jools on piano.
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