The Hot Sardines

There can’t be many bands that count a tap dancer as one of their percussionists, but that’s not even the most extraordinary thing about the Hot Sardines.

That honour goes to their stellar musicianship: they know their heritage, know their instruments, and best of all know how to use and abuse that to have a lot of creative, energetic and audibly delicious fun.

Their set touched on Gershwin, Fats Waller, and even Disney, all laced with their own unique strain of showmanship.

Bandleader Bibs Palazzo was at the heart of the action, a fantastically talented pianist (and whistler) whose open-fronted piano is as stylish as his playing, with lead singer Miz Elizabeth adding plenty of pizzazz with a mixture of French and English vocals topped with a New York twang.

With an accomplished band around them bringing in crisp clear tones for the Charleston or breathy, messy, sleazy notes for a sublime Summertime, there wasn’t anything more you could ask of them.

The only thing missing was the chance to get up and dance: hard to help thinking that the Norfolk and Norwich Festival’s spectacular Spiegeltent would have been a better spiritual home than the Theatre Royal, but it would have required a week-long residency to pack in Tuesday night’s sell-out crowd.

Oh, and the tap dancer? Fast Eddy Francisco is not just a pair of pretty feet; as a well as some sweet dance breaks he also pulled out a ukelele for one number.

Told you these guys are talented.