Show: The Green Room featuring Leo Green
Venue: QT at the Middle Eight, Covent Garden, London
Dates: Thursday/Friday/Saturday to 18 June 2022
Theatre Breaks guests will remember with fondness the Kingsway Hall Hotel: a modern, friendly 4 star hotel just a short walk to the Covent Garden Piazza that was the perfect base for anyone visiting London’s Theatreland.
Rebranded with even more cool thrown in and re-named Middle Eight, the hotel is now also home to a new speakeasy-style venue, with it’s own resident sax god – saxophonist and Radio 2 presenter, Leo Green – to entertain anyone who notices the QT logo on an unassuming door in the basement and dares to go in.
Inside QT, they will find Leo, with his talented band of willing accomplices, put his unique slant on a variety of songs from artists as diverse as Guns and Roses, Dolly Parton and Toto!
I am sure there should be a verb for what he does – to jazz up is not it: to jazzify? to add the blue note? or maybe it is just to Leonize.
If you haven’t got the idea by the time U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the middle With You” are over, you will by the time Leo asks the crowd if anyone wants some Jon Bon Jovi. Nothing is sacred and everything is a valid target for some Leonization – I’m liking it! Collateral damage includes George Michael, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith on their way to Robbie Williams and Salt-N-Pepa
Leo himself is a cross between manic Dr Feelgood guitarist, Wilko Johnson and the Cookie Monster. A loveable guy belting out machinegun sax solos. At the heart of the band’s dynamic, is the duo of Leo Green and trumpeter Matt Holland. Holland is an accomplished band leader in his own right, He is the cool, to compliment Leo’s childlike enthusiasm – Elwood to Leo’s Jake Blues, to make a Blues Brothers comparison – with razor-sharp solos on both trumpet and flugelhorn.
Stunning vocals throughout are provided by West End star Emma Hatton, soul and jazz singer and pianist Vanessa Haynes and singer/actor Billy Phillips. Leo chips in with a bit of vocal work too, giving us his version of Dolly Paton’s “9 to 5” with the enthusiasm and showmanship that he gives all his performances.
I’ll admit – it wasn’t what I was expecting. This is the guy that resigned as Ronnie Scott’s artistic director because, as a jazz venue, its offering was becoming too diluted with blues and soul acts. Here at the QT, this is still Jazz (well mostly) and, because of what I thought I knew, I expected reverence: but what I got was a huge dollop of fun!.
The Green Room, I realise, is not just about a resident house band taking hotel guests through its set list, just as the QT is not the speakeasy of sticky carpets and the smell of musicians who haven’t seen the light of day since their last court hearing! QT presents The Green Room is a reason to come to London in it’s own right (like I did). It gives the hotel the feeling of a destination not just that of a stopping off place and should put a smile on the face of anyone who walks in.
For me, I hope that the show, with its roots very much in the West End that surrounds it and Leo, the consummate showman, relaxed and exuberant and so obviously doing what he loves, both quickly become a part of the very fabric of the Middle Eight and of Theatreland itself.
Whatever brings you to London, an hour or two in Leo’s company at the Middle Eight is the perfect moment between the humdrum verse, chorus, verse, chorus, routine of the week and the explosive finale of the weekend.