There was more laughter in the first half hour of Hugh Laurie's musical debut on New Zealand soil than at some comedy shows.

He charmed his way into audience hearts almost immediately with quick quips about tearing us away from the royal tour coverage ("We did ask if they would like to come - they couldn't get a babysitter"), and tales about a previous Auckland visit.

He also thanked everyone for taking a punt on him and his musical endeavours. "Can you imagine if we were all sitting on a plane, and the captain came over the loud speaker saying, 'Welcome on board, everyone, hope you enjoy the flight. Until recently I was a dental hygienist, but I've always wanted to fly a plane, so thanks for giving me a go'? You'd be shocked."

But this dental hygienist clearly got his pilot's licence years ago, because he's one heck of an entertainer, and a surprisingly top-notch blues man. Even better in the flesh than he sounds on his albums (Let Them Talk, and Didn't It Rain), one might suggest.


He may be a white British actor with little to feel blue about (in fact, he seemed positively bursting with enthusiasm, jumping all over the stage with his long stretchy legs), but when he sits down to roll his way through old-time classics like Jelly Roll Morton's I Hate A Man Like You or Dr John's Wild Honey, you can't help but feel transported to New Orleans.

That's a testament to Laurie's passion for the music, but also the talents of his Copper Bottom Band, who drip authenticity and deserve their own acclaim. Sister Jean McClain and Gaby Moreno have golden voices, and accounted for plenty of highlights, like Send Me To The 'Lectric Chair and The Weed Smoker's Dream in particular, but getting the men up front to do an almost acapella version of Lazy River was equally grin-worthy, and the horn solos from Elizabeth Lee and Vincent Henry were as expressive as any vocal takes.

It might not have been the smokey, raw blues of a down-at-heel tavern, but it was a pleasure and a privilege to watch Mr Laurie fulfil his musical dreams.

Hugh Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band
Where: The Civic
When: Tuesday, April 15