For some performances, one just has to start off by addressing the elephant in the room.
In his show at the 21st Istanbul Jazz Festival, Hugh Laurie did just that, acknowledging that he was known for having a part in a successful television show. From then, he never looked back – neither did the thousands in the audience.
It’s fair to say that a good portion of the sold-out crowd at the Cemil Topuzlu Open-Air Amphitheatre on July 9 knew Laurie from the hit U.S. TV show “House.” But nobody let that get in the way: For almost two hours, Laurie and his immaculate Copper Bottom Band sang the blues, played the jazz, and danced to the tango.
Some of the traditional numbers were well-known to the audience, and some were easy to catch up with. From the entertaining “Iko Iko” to the electric rendition of Lead Belly’s “You Don’t Know My Mind” and a powerful vocal quartet performance of “Lazy River,” it was a rich, entertaining and soulful performance. In between, there were also laughs: Laurie showed that he is a good stand-up comic, with jokes lightening the mood and cheering up the audience. “There is some good blowing going on there,” he said, before introducing his band’s horn section. He also took his time to drink whiskey with his band on stage – recalling that he needed to drink it before starting to play with the band, because they were much more qualified and he was “out of his depth.” The whole band made a toast and Laurie shouted “serefe,” meaning “cheers” in Turkish.
Before starting their tango number, “Kiss of Fire,” a great duet with the charming Gaby Moreno, Laurie said they would be cheering for Argentina that night, referring to the World Cup semifinal game against the Netherlands. Even when you are an acclaimed actor, a music aficionado living your stage dream and a charming and funny man, you may not always win. But if you’re Hugh Laurie, maybe you can.
The Istanbul Jazz Festival continues with two more shows tonight: Cecile McLorin Salvant and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society will play at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum and the Elvan Aracı Quartet featuring Dilek S. Erdogan and Per-Ola Gadd will perform at Salon IKSV.