Like the phoenix from the flames, I arise from the ashes. Reborn, revitalised, eternal. My purpose is to review Later… With Jools Holland, and while I was unable to fulfill my raison d’être last week, I return a repentant and humbled man. This week’s review will be my Citizen Kane, my Godfather, my Weekend at Bernie’s. But before we get to John Mayer, The National, London Grammar, Lissie, Ballake Sissoko or Graham Parker & The Rumour, I thought I’d give you all a quick play-by-play of last week’s show.

I thought Arctic Monkeys were fantastic. Alex Turner’s performance and style has evolved so much from the cheeky Sheffield kid we all met in 2006. He’s suave, he’s cool, he’s got immediate sex appeal. He’s evolved from the localised social commentator to a universal crooner of the highest quality.

Sir Paul McCartney was marvellous. While there were rumbles that Macca has lost his voice, I have to disagree. He never really had much of one in the first place. The Beatles were never about incredible vocals, it was all about the tunes and the man can still write them. Seeing Jools step in to play piano on ‘Get Back‘ might be the moment of the series so far.

As for the rest of it? Well, I thought Gary Clark Jr. was bloody brilliant. He can somehow make Cream-like riffs sound current which is no mean feat. Benjamin Clementine was thoroughly enjoyable, and Earth, Wind and Fire were their brilliantly charming selves. It amazes me that Jools almost messed up an interview with the disco legends, especially when Macca was giving him an assist.

And Katy B? This tweet sums it up perfectly:

All in all last week was one of the better shows in the show’s most recent run. There was star power, good variety and an interview that didn’t totally suck. If this week’s show was to live up to the standard of last week it required a stellar performance from opening batsman The National. And we got one. Performing ‘Sea of Love‘ they’re doing what they do best. Earnest, highly polished and layered, they always manage to get the spirit of their music across live. Sure it’s melancholic, but it’s the kind of melancholy that actually makes you feel ebullient by the time it’s over.

Those of you who are the more avid DYC followers will have seen that I took over our twitter feed for last night’s episode. In a half hour of sarcasm and thinly veiled contempt, I produced a summation of John Mayer’s performance of ‘Wildfire‘ that I don’t think I’ll be able to top:

Up next in the ‘up and coming artist‘ slot are London Grammar. Following on from other female-led minimalist electro acts Lorde and Chvrches, Later… seems to have it’s finger on the pulse of this new chilled out wave. Out of these three acts, London Grammar do the least for me. Performing ‘Strong‘ it’s obvious that Hannah Reid has a brilliantly evocative voice. It’s chilling and ethereal; Reid sells an insatiable sense of yearning that belies the unimaginative songwriting and production. While Lorde and Chvrches have created their own sound, London Grammar are becoming a diet version of The xx.

In a rare moment for Later… it seems that Jools has only gone and booked two artists with a country flavour. Lissie, a rough-and-ready songstress with a cool leather jacket and some questionable dancing, belts out her new single ‘Sleepwalking’. Much like Kacey Musgroves earlier in the series, this simply doesn’t do anything for me. She’s clearly a tidy musician, with a catchy number to boot, but me and country just don’t mesh.

Last night I tweeted that I was a fan of the brief Lou Reed tribute. While others disagreed with me, I thought for a program that struggles to pace itself, Later… did as good a job as could be expected. In the last few days since the tragic passing of Reed, there hasn’t been enough of the great man’s music on the television. Reed was an artist of the highest order, a man who was celebrated for his supreme talent rather than his difficult personality. To finally see a clip of him, with a guitar in his hand, delivering one of his finest works was refreshing. In the 90 seconds we had of the great man, he also managed to give us the best interview of the series, diffusing a typically inane Jools question. Rest in peace Lou, you will be missed.

Editor’s Note: Here’s Reed’s performance of ‘Perfect Day’ from ’03. You’re entirely forgiven if you can’t read on after this, but it’s so flipping beautiful we had to include it.

Up next are the recently reformed Graham Parker & The Rumour, an influential if not commercially successful artist of the late 70s and 80s. I’ve never had much exposure to his music, but I was reliably informed by my father that Bruce Springsteen is a fan. Praise indeed. Unsurprisingly, it is quintessential classic rock; a solid male voice over some neatly constructed riffs and a tasty guitar solo. There’s enough here for me to pursue Parker further, something that can’t be said for some of the other heritage acts that have graced Later… this series.

Introduced to us as the ‘master of the Malian harp’, Ballake Sissoko may have put in my favourite performance of the series thus far. It’s SO different to everything else we’ve seen on Later… that it’s difficult to describe the hold it had over me. Rather than try, I’ll leave you with two more tweets:

By the all-seeing wisdom and benevolence of Jove, it seems that the only act pulling double-duty on today’s telecast is The National. Closing on ‘Don’t Swallow the Cap‘ I have to marvel on the way in which Matt Berninger et al. make their morose anthems of despair an event. They are so tight as a musical experience, so accomplished that you can’t help but revel in their unique brand of woe. Simply brilliant. Despite some low points this week’s Later… almost eclipsed last week’s star-studded affair. The National and Ballake Sissoko were interesting, engaging and powerful, giving us two performances that have been the toast of this series.

Catch Later… With Jools Holland Tuesdays at 10pm on BBC2.

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