George Melly

DAVID WAKEFIELD Norwich Playhouse

DAVID WAKEFIELD

> Norwich Playhouse

It's a sure sign that Christmas is coming when George Melly makes his annual appearance in Norwich – before his residency at Ronnie Scott's – and there was the usual enthusiastic welcome to a man whose career was revived here, courtesy of the Cooper Brothers at the Jacquard in Magdalen Street.

Although the dark-brown singing voice is still in good order, the years (he's closing in on his 80th birthday) of an extraordinary lifestyle have taken their toll, and his performances these days are done from a chair, taking away a vital element of the Melly vaudeville-style presentation. No more the action-packed presentation of songs like Frankie and Johnny.

There is, however, a fresh backing, the excellent Digby Fairweather Half Dozen which adds not only more instrumental voices, but some professional close harmony singing.

This was, in football parlance, a concert of two halves, with Melly seeming far more relaxed after an interval chatting to fans in the foyer, and his performance showed it with rip-roaring performances of Dr Jazz, Kid Ory's old favourite All the Girls Go Crazy About The Way I Walk, and the rollicking Fats Waller number The Joint Is Jumpin'.

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The Half Dozen seemed inspired by the infectiousness of it all, none more than pianist Craig Milverton, whose little cameo of pure Waller stride in that final number would have delighted any pianist in the house.

As an encore it just had to the Melly classic Nuts. What else?

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