Mick Hucknall and Simply Red
MARK NICHOLLS Blicking Hall
It was a mellow evening at Blickling Hall last night.
Mick Hucknall and Simply Red seemed to perfectly dovetail into the setting - relaxed, laid-back and charming.
One mellow song seemed to drift into another. Whether that is a compliment or not depends upon your viewpoint.
Hucknall, a little heavier than perhaps he was last time he performed at Blicking in 2003, was enjoying himself, preaching to the converted, to an audience that had grown older with his songs and was content to relax at picnic tables as Hucknall crooned in the background a couple of hundred yards away.
But this is also the pleasure at the Blickling concerts, the music is just one element.
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Within the natural bowl of Blickling some 8,000 fans clustered around their tables enjoying the atmosphere.
As the warm-up act, The Webb Sisters, finished their brief but entertaining set, there were some anxious glances skywards as the cloud cover darkened and the rumble of thunder could be heard.
Few had come to this concert anticipating a downpour. Would it rain on Mick Hucknall's Blickling parade after so many days of hot sticky weather or would the Simply Red crowd remain high and dry?
Hucknall began sedately, an audience-friendly spread of songs from the albums before picking up the acoustic guitar himself for the early favourite Holding Back The Years.
There was a warm reception for various cover versions but it was songs such as Stars, Thrill Me and Come To My Aid that enthralled the audience.
The band picked up the tempo as the light disappeared, giving Blickling a unique ambiance that makes these concerts such a success year after year.
Fairground rounded off the set that lasted one hour and 15 minutes before Hucknall and his band returned for an encore which included Money's Too Tight To Mention.
Hucknall remains a consummate showman. His appearance is the latest summer concert success at Blickling following Van Morrison and Bryan Adams, with classic heart-throbs Il Divo scheduled to appear tonight.
By the end of the evening, the sky was deep blue rather than rainy black and the showers stayed away, leaving Mick Hucknall with a dry run at a contented Blickling audience.