Aug 26, 2012

Hugh Laurie

For those of you not aware, Hugh Laurie has turned his career to music, and was in town to play the Park West theater. He plays with the same humor and passion as his earlier endeavors. This Englishman started a pretty decent career in British comedy series with his partner Stephen Fry in "A bit of Fry & Laurie", and teaming up with Rowan 'Mr. Bean' Atkinson in the classic "Blackadder" series. But in the U.S. he is probably best known for his Guinness book of records earning role as 'Dr. House'. In its heydays this made him an impressive $700,000 per episode, so he can now probably do more or less anything he feels like doing. And what he felt like was pursuing his life's passion of New Orleans jazz and Louisiana and Chicago blues.

He started with a caveat that he will probably f#*! up the performance, so that we better listen to the band, but look at him. He could very much apprehend the audience, comparing his actor-turned-musician to sitting on an airplane when the pilot comes on the PA system to announce he was doing pedicures up to 6 weeks ago but was now very excited to have passed the pilot exam and start his life's dream of flying. Hugh Laurie certainly has not lost his improv comedian skills, talking between songs like no other musician GABROEN saw before, and instantly incorporating reactions from the audience.

By the way, for those of you not aware, Hugh Laurie in real life is not Dr. House; he doesn't limp, he is not grumpy, and he is not a know-it-all. That was also his response to a woman in the audience shouting: "I love you, Dr. House".

By the way, for those of you not aware, an American concert audience is very different from a Dutch concert audience. In Holland people are very actively applauding and cheering, but no one shouts out words and everyone stays in their seats. In contrast, an American audience never sits still, continuously gets up to get drinks, answer calls, go pee, or whatever they do. Being Dutch, GABROEN doesn't walk around so doesn't really know whatever the rest of the audience does when walking around.  But an American audience also makes for a more interactive show, shouting out things at the performer in question that makes the show more dynamic and funny. Unless the performer in question is Van Morrison, who GABROEN saw in an Atlanta concert a couple of years ago, and who does not tolerate the audience drinking, making calls, taking pictures, talking, nothing, nada. By the way, for those of you not aware, Van Morrison does not say one single word himself in concerts.

So Hugh Laurie is very funny. We knew that from his 1980s and 90s shows that also aired on Dutch television, and we experienced it in this concert as well. He is also a pretty darn good jazz piano player, and his voice fits this genre well as long as the songs are more mellow.

It was nice to see this man pursue his dream, and I know many worse ways for a rich man to spend his money than reviving 1920s jazz and 1950s blues. This was his first gig in Chicago, sweet home Chicago, the home of the blues. He was clearly in awe and a little sentimental, as he grew up with the music from so many Chicago blues musicians, including his all time hero Muddy Waters. He even got emotional when Mud Morganfield, the eldest son of Muddy, joined the stage for two songs. Mud may have inherited the looks and voice of his dad, but certainly not the song-writing skills. All in all a great night out in sweet home Chicago.

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