Mark Moraghan (Live) - Moonlight's Back In Style - Harrogate Advertiser

By the interval concert-goers down in the Stalls Bar are already comparing notes about how impressed they are by the songs written by tonight's stars, not only good tunes and clever lyrics but good tunes and clever lyrics with a modern edge.

Rather than being merely a brave effort, it looks as if tonight is going to be an unexpected triumph.

Chatting afterwards in the bar of the Harrogate Brasserie in the company of actor-cum-singer Mark Moraghan, broadcaster-cum-songwriter Nicky Campbell says the important thing had been to make it fun for everyone.

"It's all about putting on a show," says the man better known for TV's Watchdog or radio's BBC Five Live than swing jazz.

A night presented by local promoters Kula begins with the bashful-looking but ballsy-sounding youngsters of St John Fisher's Senior Swing Band under conductor Nigel Beetles navigating their way through a short but varied set (from Dizzy Gillespie to Weather Report) with impressive drum, sax and trombone solos going down well with the audience of 180 or so.

Nerves rise as Moraghan and Campbell take the stage, the latter introducing the former as "the Tony Bennett of Toxteth."

Neither half of this unlikely double act, which sprang into life when they first met on TV reality show Just The Two of Us, are experts at this sort of thing on paper but both bound on stage like two boys let loose in a toyshop marked showbiz.

It's just as well that Campbell fizzes with finger-snapping pizazz, acting as both MC and occasional lead vocalist as if the pair of them really were Frank and Dean.

Trading wisecracks with the more down to earth Moraghan, he expertly breaks the ice with knowing, tongue-in-cheek charm and a flurry of anecdotes about boyhood visits to Harrogate, paying his respects to his Aunt Joan who's sitting in the stalls just in front of me.

All this banter can't disguise the fact that Moraghan's melodic vocals aren't quite a match at first for the seven-piece band, led by keyboard player Paul Buck who was also responsible for the skilful sub-Nelson Riddle arrangements on the duo's excellent Moonlight's Back In Style album with original swing jazz numbers such as Come For The Ride, We'll Never Have Manhattan and Blast From The Past.

But this unlikely pairing have an ace up their sleeves - a cover version of Bring Me Sunshine, complete with Eric 'n Ernie-type high-kicking antics from the long-gone, family entertainment days of Morecambe and Wise.

Before you know it, the crowd are not only clapping along but singing along.

Before you know it, the crowd are listening with rapt attention to songs few of them have ever heard before.

Confidence raised, the second half goes like a dream. Moraghan's belief in his own voice improves to the point where he genuinely adds something extra to already impressive songs, in particular the brassy bluster of I'll Make An Exception For You, the catchy country swing of Many's The Time and a heartfelt version of the ultimate downbeat saloon song One For My Baby (And One More For The Road).

There's no let-up in the general japery either, Campbell proving himself a genuine trouper after catching only two hours sleep thanks to the minor matter of being on duty the night Gordon Brown lost the election.

He hasn't got his sparring partner's voice, what he has got is the confidence and stagecraft (and talent on the ukelele) which the likeable Moraghan could do with a little more of.

Being British, the stars' approach to humour is more end of the pier than Las Vegas, more Blackpool than Broadway, more rascals than Ratpack.

Which is no surprise. Despite their Bob and Bing routines, Moraghan and Campbell are scarcely road-hardened which makes the success of the show even more amazing.

The ironic thing is the songs themselves don't need any sugar-coating, they're good enough to prosper without any of the hullaboloo.

But I could be wrong. If the audience's rapturous roar of approval at the end is anything to go by, Campbell is, in fact, 100% right. It's all about putting on a show.

Harrogate Advertiser (Live)
25 May 2010