30 classic Later... with Jools Holland performances as the show turns 30
1992 was a big year for firsts. The first ever smartphone was created, Quentin Tarantino’s debut film was released and European football’s elite took part in the inaugural Champions League.
It was also the first time that Jools Holland played boogie woogie piano while asking a guest about their new album. Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of Later… with Jools Holland, with that October 1992 episode featuring The Christians, Nu-Colour, D’Influence and The Neville Brothers. A concert celebrating the anniversary earlier this month featured the likes of First Aid Kit, Michael Kiwanuka and Robert Plant.
With his distinctive voice and occasionally awkward piano chats, Jools is easy to parody, as Adam & Joe once demonstrated.
And yet, it’s clear to see why the show has endured. It’s a programme where Sir Paul McCartney can appear inbetween a rapper and a group of teenagers who’ve released one EP. A veteran soul singer might perform a ‘60s classic while Dave Grohl dances in the audience.
New acts are broken, while classic artists find a new audience. In a room full of their peers, performers have to be at the top of their game. The best performances have an air of ‘follow that, motherf****r’ about them.
Now in its 61st series, the show has survived location changes, a pandemic and even a dig at its annual Hootenanny in Peep Show to remain a rite of passage for musicians young and old.
And now, in this corner of the room, I am delighted to welcome the wonderful ‘30 classic performances from 30 years of Later with…Jools Holland’.
JOHNNY CASH - FOLSOM PRISON BLUES (1994)
The various Later studios have played host to such musical legends as Al Green, Brian Wilson and Carole King, but few names demand as much respect as that of Johnny Cash. The Man in Black brought serious gravitas to the show with his performance of Folsom Prison Blues, just as his career's second wind was beginning with his acclaimed 'American' series of albums.
PJ HARVEY - DOWN BY THE WATER (1995)
With its menacing call-and-response vocals and "Little fish, big fish, swimming in the water/come back here man, give me my daughter" incantation, this is a typically mesmering PJ Harvey performance.
RADIOHEAD - PARANOID ANDROID (1997)
Sometimes a Later performance captures a band at that moment. The point when they go from critical darlings or cult favourites to something momentous. In 2021, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl chose this epic performance as his all-time favourite moment from the show, telling Jools: "This is a pivotal moment, not only in Radiohead's career but in the history of music. One of the greatest live bands of all time, performing a song that was challenging the audience to join them in this crazy revolution".
READ MORE: 10 Teenage Fanclub songs that tell the story of one of Scotland's best bands
AT THE DRIVE-IN - ONE ARMED SCISSOR (2000)
Pure chaos from the post-hardcore American band. In a perfect example of the show's eclectic line-ups occasionally making it impossible for the next act to follow what's gone before, this primal, jawdropping performance was immediately followed by Robbie Williams.
NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS - GOD IS IN THE HOUSE (2001)
Nick Cave has been responsible for many notable Later performances. His louder side will feature further down this list, but in 2001 he was joined by the Bad Seeds for a more contemplative tale of a sleepy little town in which "we've bred all our kittens white so you can see them in the night". The band gather round Cave's piano with red wine and cigarettes, briefly turning a shiny BBC studio into a dive bar with some really good musicians in the corner.
PATTI SMITH - BECAUSE THE NIGHT (2002)
Picture a Patti Smith live performance, and you'll probably envisage the sweaty punk energy of her late '70s incarnation. 25 years on, she provided one of her most striking performances with just her voice and an accompanying guitar. The confidence, the personality and - most importantly - the voice are as powerful as ever.
SOLOMON BURKE - DON'T GIVE UP ON ME (2002)
The soul legend performed a superb rendition of his 1962 classic Cry To Me during his appearance, but it was the title track from his new album which left the biggest impression. Accompanied by Jools and his band, the 62-year-old gave a masterful performance from the comfort of a golden throne.
THE DESERT SESSIONS - I WANNA MAKE IT WIT CHU (2003)
The Desert Sessions musical collective was founded by Josh Homme, best known as frontman for Queens of the Stone Age. QOTSA would go on to release I Wanna Make It wit Chu themselves in 2007, but this is the definitive performance. One of the seedier love songs to have featured on the show was enhanced by the presence of PJ Harvey.
LOU REED - PERFECT DAY (2003)
One of a surprisingly small amount of Later performances to feature a monk performing Tai Chi, this beautiful rendition also featured the stunning, otherwordly voice of Anohni. A classic, even if it lacked the gravitas of Boyzone's contribution to the 1997 Children in Need cover.
R.E.M. - NIGHTSWIMMING (2003)
With a lyric so vivid it could induce pangs of nostalgia even in those who've never experienced "the fear of getting caught, of recklessness and water", Nightswimming's poignant story is expertly brought to life by frontman Michael Stipe.
One of the most tender moments in the show's history comes towards the end, as Stipe looks on with pride while bandmate Mike Mills plays the piano.
KT TUNSTALL - BLACK HORSE AND THE CHERRY TREE (2004)
In the post-TOTP, pre-streaming age, an impressive Jools Holland appearance could make a career overnight. That was the case for Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall, who wasn’t even supposed to be on the show.
After rapper Nas dropped out, Tunstall had just 24 hours in which to prepare. It turned out to be a starmaking appearance, with her striking use of a loop pedal in particular capturing the attention.
JOANNA NEWSOM - THE BOOK OF RIGHT-ON (2004)
The childlike voice might be an acquired taste, but as Newsom accompanied herself on harp she served up a beautiful performance that stopped viewers in their tracks.
ARCTIC MONKEYS - I BET YOU LOOK GOOD ON THE DANCEFLOOR (2005)
Long before tranquility bases and mirrorballs, a group of spotty teenagers took a big step on their journey to becoming superstars with their debut Later appearance. An assured performance left viewers believing the hype. Bonus points for the Ms Dynamite shout out.
AMY WINEHOUSE & PAUL WELLER - DON’T GO TO STRANGERS (2006)
A warm cover of the 1960 Etta Jones classic, this duet was the highlight of that year's Hootenanny. At the BBC 6 Music festival in 2020, Weller hailed the late Winehouse’s "God-given talent", and his admiration is clear to see here.
GRINDERMAN - NO PUSSY BLUES (2007)
Cave's second appearance on this list is for a performance with his side-project Grinderman, with whom he unleashed a visceral display of middle-aged angst and sexual frustration.
And that moustache.
LAURA MARLING - NEW ROMANTIC (2007)
Making her Later debut, Marling delivered the sort of assured, compelling performance you might expect from an industry veteran. Marling, however, was just 17 during this appearance.
KYLIE MINOGUE - I SHOULD BE SO LUCKY (2007)
With Jools striking up some tasteful piano, you would be forgiven for thinking his guest was about to launch into a jazz standard. Instead, we were treated to a dramatic reinterpretation of an ‘80s pop classic. Sat among the studio audience, Paul McCartney looked on approvingly.
JANELLE MONAE - TIGHTROPE (2010)
Janelle Monae brought a taste of her outstanding live show to Later, showing off her musical and dancing skills to great effect. The showwomanship is straight out of the James Brown handbook, and her band match her every funky step of the way.
LANA DEL REY - VIDEO GAMES (2011)
She would come in for criticism after a stilted, unconvincing performance of the song on Saturday Night Live, but Del Rey's Later appearance three months earlier was stunning. The song was an instant classic that felt like it had been around for decades, and she sold it with complete poise and control.
CHARLES BRADLEY - VICTIM OF LOVE (2013)
Known as 'The Screaming Eagle of Soul', Bradley had endured years of hardship while performing as a James Brown impersonator. He released his first album at the age of 62, and his astonishing, heartfelt vocals deservedly found a spot on the Later lineup.
BENJAMIN CLEMENTINE - CORNERSTONE (2013)
Occasionally a Later performance will stop you in its tracks. This was one of those moments, with vocals reminiscent of Nina Simone accompanied by elegant, dramatic piano.
Sir Paul McCartney, who was appearing on the same episode, appeared to be as blown away as every viewer at home. In 2013, Clementine told the Evening Standard: "I was very emotional after the song. I wanted to be on my own for a little bit, but while I was walking down the corridor someone pulled me by my hand. He was like 'bloody hell'. He told me I should continue. Paul McCartney".
MARIANNE FAITHFULL FEAT. ANNA CALVI - FALLING BACK (2014)
Faithfull's is the raw voice of a woman who has lived a life and has stories to tell. Having worked with the likes of Beck, Jarvis Cocker and PJ Harvey, she knows the value of a good collaboration, and found a superb foil in Anna Calvi.
That voice is perfectly complemented by the sheer passion of Calvi's magnificent, frenzied guitar work.
FUTURE ISLANDS - SEASONS (WAITING ON YOU) (2014)
The song has stood the test of time, but this one is all about the performance, and about one band member's performance in particular. It was the Baltimore synth-poppers' appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman that went viral, but the howls and jerky moves of frontman Samuel T. Herring are just as potent in the Later studio.
CHRIS - TILTED/I FEEL FOR YOU (2016)
You're unlikely to find more impressive choreography in the Later archives. This perfectly executed performance brought Chris to the British public's attention, and he sealed the deal two months later with a memorable appearance at Glastonbury.
Chris has turned in other notable Later performances, including a superb cover of Terence Trent D'Arby's Sign Your Name, but the artistry on show here is so impressive you almost want to laugh.
Recalling that Tilted performance in 2018, he told the BBC: "You can see in my eyes I really want it. I have this burning focus in my eyes which I always have when I want to nail the thing". He had no reason to worry.
Tilted segued into a cover of Prince's I Feel For You, as performed by Chaka Khan, with Chris explaining that this was his tribute to Prince following his recent passing.
IGGY POP - LUST FOR LIFE (2016)
A crack band featuring Josh Homme and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders ratchet up the excitement with that iconic riff, with over 30 seconds elapsing before Iggy Pop makes his entrance.
And what an entrance it is. At 69, he bounds in with the energy of a performer 50 years younger, bare chest peaking out of his unbuttoned jacket. Bounding around the studio, he doesn't stop until everyone in the audience and even the other musicians on the bill are moving. Life-affirming stuff.
ALDOUS HARDING - HORIZON (2017)
It's hard to do justice to Harding's expressions during this appearance. With just vocals and piano, the song alone is beautiful and haunting, but the charisma on display elevates it to an all-time classic Later performance.
CHAS & DAVE - THERE AIN’T NO PLEASING YOU (2018)
A performance made even more poignant by the passing of Chas Hodges three months later, it was already hard to remain stoic in the face of two men in their seventies performing a stripped back version of their classic love song. A powerful reminder that, beyond the Snooker Loopy comedy reputation, there lay a couple of proper songwriters.
ROBYN - WITH EVERY HEARTBEAT (2018)
Robyn was on Later to promote her excellent single Honey, but it was this 2007 throwback that stole the show. Queen of the sad banger, she wrings every drop of emotion from this classic.
READ MORE: How Euphoria gave a Gerry Rafferty classic a new lease of life
AMYL & THE SNIFFERS - MONSOON ROCK (2019)
In one of the show's most frenetic performances since At The Drive-In, frontwoman Amy Taylor gives an unsuspecting audience a taste of the Australian band's memorable live shows. The country responsible for Nick Cave's Grinderman-era moustache delivers once again, with Taylor's bandmates sporting some tremendous mullets.
SELF ESTEEM - PRIORITISE PLEASURE (2022)
Rebecca Lucy Taylor made her Later debut in 2021, but with the show's pre-pandemic format restored this appearance on the first episode of series 61 was the real deal. Speaking on Instagram, she said: "We all know it’s a major dream of mine and while yes I did do the Covid sessions one, doing the proper big boy show really scratched that 15-year itch".
There were no visible nerves in this cathartic performance, with Taylor's dramatic, cathartic performance a reminder that Later is still relevant after 30 years.