Published on theMusic.com.au | 30.04.14
HUGH LAURIE & THE COPPER BOTTOM BAND
PERTH CONCERT HALL
26 April, 2014
The last time Hugh Laurie was in Australia was in the ‘80s, promoting TV mockumentary The Crystal Cube, alongside Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson. Since then, he’s been involved in Black Adder, Stuart Littleand other films as well as playing the lead on eight seasons of the career-defining House. It was during the role of Dr Gregory House that we were given a glimpse at Laurie’s passion for guitar and piano, and returning to Australia 33 years after his first visit, it was with his backing band, The Copper Bottom Band, that those talents were on display.
It’s almost impossible to escape Laurie on the small screen; in fact, as the masses were filling into Perth Concert Hall, the 2009 DreamWorks animation Monsters Vs. Aliens was screening on TV, a film in which Laurie voices one of the main characters.
A stage production that replicated an old jazz lounge consumed what would usually be a somewhat bland stage, and a handful of musicians floated out. As people began counting the members of The Copper Bottom Band, an unmistakable voice bellowed throughout the venue. “There’s seven of them,” came a booming British voice from behind the scenes, which sparked the band to engage in classic New Orleans tune Iko Iko. Finally Laurie danced his way onto the stage. Knowing full well that most had purchased tickets due to the impressive acting credits he’s garnered, he thanked punters for taking a leap of faith; a plunge that allowed him to live out one of his dreams.
After parading around on stage with a grin from ear to ear, and downing a shot of whiskey, Laurie assumed his position at his piano to unleash an “awfully nice” performance, all the while being “sexier than Michael Buble”, who just happened to be playing up the road both nights Laurie was in town. Dr John was also in town, and if Hugh Laurie’s tweet earlier that day (“Dr John is staying in the same hotel. And so the gamekeeper turns autograph hunter”) didn’t cement his fanhood, a heartfelt cover of John’s Wild Honey sure did.
It wasn’t long before The Copper Bottom Band stole the show, consuming the spotlight more than Laurie did – a setup similar to that of Laurie’s sophomore record, 2013’s Didn’t It Rain, in which a selection of guest vocalists steer the ship. Each song was like an act from a play: the tango-esque El Choclo (Kiss Of Fire) saw Gaby Moreno take the lead for a spine-tingling performance that ending in a tango with Laurie, while Bessie Smith’s Send Me To The ‘lectric Chair was led by Sista Jean McClain and incorporated a trial with Laurie as the judge, before guitarist Mark Goldenberg, horn player Vincent Henry, drummer Herman Matthews and Laurie gathered around what was described as one of the most precious microphones on earth for a barbershop quartet rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s Lazy River. It was the diverse range of genres and talent from The Copper Bottom Band’s seven members that ensured all 23 songs on the evening’s setlist were captivating. In fact, the show might have been just as engaging even without Laurie.
Returning for an encore that saw everyone out of their seats, and after two and a half hours of blues-fuelled energy, all comparisons to Laurie as an actor were null, and his musical talents stood as a separate entity. The leap of faith had been well worth it. Hopefully he’ll return a little sooner next
Written by Daniel Cribb