If you are a Jazz fan then Gregory Porter needs no introduction. If you are a Cheltenham Jazz Festival attendee, then you know Porter hasn’t just been the festival’s curator for the past few years but is also the heart of the festival.
Having played his first ever Cheltenham Jazz Festival back in 2012 with Jamie Cullum, Gregory Porter has made Cheltenham his home away from home. In fact, during his show this year he said the same thing and he said “I now have my favourite pubs and my favourite fish and chips.”
This year, I believe is said to be Porters last year as curator but certainly won’t be the last time he plays here. As he was closing the festival and possibly won’t be back for a few years, he made sure his brief farewell was one to remember by bringing friends along to join him.
Another sold out show, Porter and his very much loved band entered the stage to his adoring fan base roaring with cheers and applause.
Gregory Porter is just naturally cool. The way he walks on stage to the rhythm of the band is wonderfully Jazz.
Starting with Revival, the crowd were heavily invested from the start. There is no one quite like Porter. He performs with such ease and his vocals are even better live than they are on record and never is there a note out of place.
Love Is Overrated followed. Porter often speaks of love between songs and his zest for life and love is incredibly infectious. When he performs songs such as Love Is Overrated, he often lengthens the song with various improvised words. His band, brilliant and professional quite clearly go with the flow and they pick up the pace with ease – so much so that you would thing every extended song was planned down to the very last note.
Liquid Spirit was another song that live, was strengthened by its extension.
Porter introduced the first of his special guests tonight as “A mastermind of poets and music and an inspiration of mine and just a bad dude.” With that he welcomed Van Morrison on to the stage. Having played the night before in the Big Top Tent, it was still a massive surprise to have Morrison on stage and everyone in attendance were absolutely delighted!
The pair performed Morrison’s Start All Over Again which was such a treat! How lucky were we?
Morrison stayed on for one more song playing The Eternal Kansas City, a song he had previously re released alongside Porter for his Re-working the Catalogue Album. A experience we are likely to never have again, what a privileged it was to be there!
Introducing his second guest saying “she’s one of the most beautiful voices in the world, her spirit and the way she is as a person shines through in her music” and he welcomed Lizz Wright to the stage. Wright is a phenomenal vocalist and they performed a stunning rendition of Donny Hathaway’s Someday We’ll All Be Free.
Porter returned to a segment of his own material before bringing out the next guest and performed Concorde and Hey Laura. Two fan favourites, the pair of songs were a delight live.
Bringing out “another bad dude” in the Kansas Smitty’s House Band’ Giacomo Smith. Smith joined Porter on Take Me To The Alley playing his Clarinet with utter fluency and astonishing beauty! His playing blended with Porter’s band perfectly.
The band left the stage except for Porter and the double bass player whom played a solo bass segment with recognisable tunes such as Superstition.
The band returned for a cover of The Temptations Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.
A lengthy version of Musical Genocide closed the set. A welcomed version with much improvisation and a large instrumental segment. This version was showcasing the wonderful talents of the band members. It’s moments like this that make you truly appreciate the beauty of individual instruments and the artistry of the person who plays them. The fans love and appreciate the band almost as much as Porter himself with Saxophonist Tivon Pennicott being a firm favourite. Porter is clearly very proud of his band and it comes across often throughout his shows as he often name drops them and applauds them.
Getting the crowd to interact singing back the line “I do not agree…” the night simply could not end there! As Porter walked off stage in rhythm, the band then departed but of course, all returned for a much wanted encore.
I would definitely not be alone in being ecstatic as to having Mr Holland as an encore piece. A wonderful song to celebrate the night with, this version was spectacular live and so much effort was put into it from everyone on stage. The song ended in such a fabulous farewell fashion that we all got up to leave assuming it was the end but to our joy, it wasn’t.
“I want to leave you with a simple parting message about optimism and love” Porter says. The set was then closed with an emotional (in a joyous way) No Love Dying. This was a moment when the crowd really came together. The chorus of voices from the audience was powerfully emotive when we sang “There will be no love dying here for me”. In fact, this moment was so special that even when Gregory Porter left the stage, and some of the audience left the building (myself included) you could still hear the band and the collective voices of the fans singing that line repeatedly halfway down to the town centre. It was glorious.
Gregory Porter is quite simply one of the best live acts in the world. In fact, a woman walking next to me said to her partner “That man is just incredible” so simply put but the perfect way to describe him.
A natural performer, he owns every stage he graces and plays with some of the finest musicians going!
Porter’s shows are always captivating and homely with so much love and devotion. His performances are always uplifting and you leave on a high every time. He brings happiness and joy into his audience’ lives in those moments. Each song he plays is a song fans want to hear and this is purely down to the fact that he doesn’t have a single bad song and the fact he plays each song to a highly crafted level.
Last year I saw Porter as a curious spectator whom knew less than a handful of songs. Since then I have become a huge fan and went into this show knowing every song he played. I could easily see him over and over again and would highly recommend anyone, a Jazz fan or not to grab a ticket the next time he is on tour.
Categories: Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Jazz Town, Latest, Live Reviews
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