Glamour. Style. Class. Where did it all go wrong eh? Look back at old photos and no respectable lady would dream of leaving the house without her slap on, a smart outfit and a hat to match. Chaps were just as well turned out, heck even the coal man wore a waistcoat. Now? Good grief. Where do we start? Onesies? Flip flops? Shell suits? I’m pretty convinced that the decline and fall of western civilisation began once we all started wearing jeans and discarding our hats and ties. Think about it. If you look like you’ve just crawled out of a bin is it any surprise you act like trash? Happily there is a small but growing band of resistance fighters in the ‘vintage scene’ who scour charity shops and save up their pounds, shillings and pences to buy faithful recreations of clothes from a more glamorous era. Clearly tonight’s band The Lamours well and truly fall into this category, not only dressing the part but bringing a vintage flavour to a dazzlingly wide range of top tunes (ancient and modern) too.
Fronted by the glamorous Lola Lamour this13 piece band is here to play one of the biggest gigs of this year’s BirminghamInternational Jazz and Blues Festival in the delightful surroundings of the Botanical Gardens. With the ground in front of the bandstand thick with picnic rugs overflowing with dips, chips, olives and all manner of delightful comestibles from Mssrs Marks and Spencer Lola and her Lamours kick things off in fine style with a sultry jazz tinged version of Tainted Love, slowing down the original (Gloria Jones’ Northern soul stomper) and the more famous synth pop version (Soft Cell’s global smash hit) and transforming it into a sassy come on. Lola’s a natural glamour puss, constantly shimmying across the stage like a Hollywood starlet and rhythmically waving her arms about whilst her young but impressively tight band provide an authentic sound. It’s not just the vocal performance, movement and music that makes the night though. The between song banter, especially the innuendo laced references to Tom’s trumpet (which seemed to tickle the fancy of several ladies in the audience) harked back to the days when Mae West could scandalise a nation with just a few words and a raised eyebrow.
Across the two hour set the band plunders a wide range of genres (jazz, rockabilly, country, pop, death metal...oh alright, I made the last one up...I reckon they could get away with it though) and eras, from vintage staples like Minnie the Moocher through to imaginative reworkings of Touch and Go’s sole hit Would You Go To Bed With Me (naturally aimed at Tom this evening...that boy must have some trumpet) and Britney Spears seminal (ooooh dodgy choice of words there) Oops I Did It Again. In the latter Lola becomes Jessica Rabbit made flesh and for a few minutes, the sedate setting of the Botanical Gardens magically becomes a smoke filled speakeasy in 1920s Noo Yoik. Lovely to hear the late great Kirsty MacColl’s In These Shoes get a fresh airing too. Sensibly they’ve not messed with the original too much, keeping the original samba vibe in tact...although I imagine one or two gentlemen were rather distracted by Lola’s shapely legs. Ahem. Loved the version of Tom Jones’ early number This and That too, slightly darker than a lot of the set it was a particularly feisty performance featuring some cool guitar electric guitar from Kev (another band member on the receiving end of Lola’s tongue...as it were...). They even tackle country via Tear Stained Letter, albeit country with a bit of a Latin flourish...and rock ‘n’ roll...(and why the heck not eh?) with Lola donning a suitable ‘yee haw’ hat to mark the occasion. Ending with I’ll Fly With You (cue another hat...this time the kind of thing that Carmen Miranda might dismiss as being a little OTT) , which inspired a small but enthusiastic conga line to snake its way between the picnic rugs, this hugely entertaining evening comes to a suitably up beat end.
And, with a sassy wiggle, she’s off into the night. Oh L’amour...I think I’m in love...