Bo Nanafana present the Valentine special Slow Boat to China, with the Loveboat Big Band, The Shellac Collective, Genie & the Jivebombers, Ophelia Bitz, Tina Bradshaw, Chris Tofu at the OPEN main room, Norwich, 15 February 2014. Review and photos
The first Bo Nanafana of the year (not including the NYE special which went into the early hours) took place this time in the main room at OPEN. Walking the steps to embark we were greeted in the foyer by the superb vocals of Genie & the Jivebombers. Entering the main room there was a real WOW! factor at the decor. This room is beautiful undecorated but the job the Bo Nanafana girls did again this time seemed extra special, with drapes, chinese lanterns, oysters, flowers, butterflies and gorgeous details such as portholes and propellers on the stage, everywhere one looked, it was a stunning job.
The Shellac Collective were playing when I arrived, shortly after 8pm, getting everyone in the mood and the dancefloor rapidly filled up to these marvellous sounds. I always enjoy these sets from Greg’s Greats (Greg Butler) and DJ78. I didn’t see Kipper Cat today though, perhaps he overdid his birthday celebrations as Safi, Hilary and I speculated! 😉
This was followed by the traditional swing dance class for half an hour or so led my Matt (aka Earl Harlem) and Stef, who looked absolutely amazing. The Bo crowd had, as usual, dressed to the nines for this one, with captains, admirals, sailors, girls in silk and an array of beautifully dressed lovely people out for fun and a good time. Bo Nanafana are the masters at providing just this.
Scattered around were the usual brilliant Bo surprises, such as Jemma’s (of JMA Photography) photo booth, and another alcove room where in a gorgeous space Tina Bradshaw was offering life coaching based on Chinese proverbs. Near the bars was another area where girls could have their hair styled.
Onstage we were entertained by Ophelia Bitz, introduced by Pete, resplendent in flamboyant sea Admiral attire and in fine form. Ophelia is a big burlesque personality and did a couple of sets, highly risque in places and with a belting voice, including a cover of an astonishing version of Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man. Very entertaining, funny, and a superb singer.
The main band for the evening was the Loveboat Big Band playing a couple of full length sets, and just as the name suggests, they are indeed a huge band with a superb, punchy brass section and very comfortable and confident musicians throughout the line up. They have a great image and ooze style. They played a number or two with Admiral T introducing the band and taking lead vocals, before Little Miss Leod joined them onstage and led them through a belting set of swing covers, interspersed with some pop classics such as Sweet Dreams and Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough (quite a highlight) and a most incredible version of I Feel Love. The Bo crowd went wild for them and the entire place was dancing.
Their sound was so infectious and I particularly adored their versions of swing classics Bei Mir Bist Du Schon, and Sing Sing Sing. I think everyone loved them, in every corner of this vast hall people were dancing and smiling.
The album Songs in the Sea of Life does a great job at capturing their fun live spirit and features most of the songs from the set and includes a wonderful version of Istanbul. They are so charismatic and the set is interspersed with ship’s horns and easy banter. The brass section is tremendous, Heather McLeod has a powerful voice and the whole band produce the absolute perfect big band sound and I can’t easily think of any other band who would have been more appropriate for this Bo. They are welcome to return to Norwich from their home base in Edinburgh any time.
Born amidst the late-night magic and mayhem of the original legendary Bongo Club Cabaret, Edinburgh swing supergroup The Love Boat Big Band has become a fêted and much-loved Fringe institution in itself, sharing a likewise kindred spirit of creative adventure – and delight in daringly deluxe entertainment – with its one-time Spiegeltent stablemate La Clique.
After four successful years at the Queen’s Hall – and following 2012’s release of their debut album, Songs in the Sea of Life – Festival 2013 unveils the band’s biggest, ritziest production yet, as they set sail from their new spiritual home of Summerhall, Edinburgh’s most exciting year-round multi-arts venue. Once again serving their uniquely intoxicating cocktail of vintage swing numbers and cheekily revamped pop classics, they invite you to join a dazzling array of special guests on a quartet of multidimensional pleasure-cruises into the wee small hours.
If you enjoy fun nights out in big (band) style then don’t miss the Loveboat Big Band if they dock near you. And do try and get hold of their super CD Songs in the Sea of Life (ATMUS 003) available from Amazon and other outlets.
The audience begged for (and got) a couple of encores but eventually the set had to close, though this was not the end of the evening and until the early hours we had music with a dj set from Chris Tofu, quite brilliantly mad in places, and totally infectious, playing a string of classics in ways I have never heard before plus some superb electro swing. He kept everyone dancing to the very last. Before Chris however, Paul invited Helen and Tris onstage to give out the prizes from Baby Buddha Chinese Teahouse for the best dressed in the audience.
Thanks to all the Bo Nanafana crew, all the artists and performers and all the staff at OPEN and everyone involved in making for another roaring success of a night full of fun and smiles. I don’t think any other city in the country has anything like Bo Nanafana, all the performers love being invited, and all are in awe at the Bo Nanafana crowd and the effort they make to dress up and party.
words and photos, richard shashamane 2014