Festival goers on Sunday night got a triple night of headliners with Vanessa Haynes performing Aretha Franklin – Queen of Soul on the floating stage followed by original lead singer of Boney M, Liz Mitchell and finishing up with the incredibly funny Jack Dee.
Liz opened the show with a capello of Boney M’s I’m Born Again. She then said, “Are you ready for Daddy Cool or are we too early for Daddy Cool? I want you to know that I am at home here. Seriously I live just round the corner. I don’t normally work close but today I’m working for family. Are you we family? All the Daddies in the house lets’ go.” Everyone then jumped for their seats and starting singing and dancing to the 1979 Boney M hit.
Ma Maker followed after which Liz said, “I tried to change my programme but I’m 70 and can’t remember what I changed it to.” She then looked around for her set list before finding it the floor afterwards saying “Oh dear we’ve already missed one song. My brain doesn’t work so well! I had better do the next one as someone has requested me to do it so I had better or I’ll be cursed.” She then performed another 1979 hit Ribbons of Blue.
Afterwards she said, “I feel so blessed because last year was the first time I did the Festival and I was always scared to do it because my children went to The Oratory. This is like home and you don’t want to embarrass your kids right? So it has come at a good time now I’m older now and it shouldn’t be embarrassing now they are older. I don’t know how this happened, I was just a stupid little girl working for Lyons training centre and suddenly I had the opportunity to sing and low and behold I have sung songs that you still love. I’m grateful that you want to be here tonight.”
The up-beat classic Boney M hits then kept coming with Hooray! Hooray! It’s a Holi-Holiday, Brown Girl in the Ring before Liz singing a cover of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry and ending with the number one hit Rivers of Babylon from 1978 and Sunny.
Liz ended the show by inviting a few men in the audience to join her on the stage. To start with she asked for some older men to join her on stage to sing Painter Man after which she invited three young men to the stage to dance to Rasputin which has become a TikTok hit with one taking his shirt off to cheers from the audience. Afterwards two of her grandsons joined her on stage for final song Gotta go Home with the announcer asking her over the tannoy to wrap up the show to the audience’s surprise.
The 2023 Henley Festival ended on brilliant high with a jaw-aching, side splitting set from Jack Dee in the Riverside tent. He opened the set by saying, “I’m not a BBC TV presenter!” The hilarious stories came thick and fast around Glastonbury, doing fundraising gigs for “b****y awful illnesses you’ve never heard of”, Antiques Roadshow, his hate of transition spectacles, at what point in a relationship do you wear the same fleeces, charity shop donations, empty nesting, soft toys, seeing a GP, orthopaedic mattress (which we never heard the end of the story to), water bottles, electric vehicles and many more. He ended the show picking up a ukulele saying, “You never know what size you’re buying on ebay!” before singing a hilarious song about paracetamol. We’re sure he could have gone on but again the announcer was heard saying that Festival site was closing in 5 minutes!
So it’s all over for another year, five nights of music headliners, amazing art, top comedy, showcasing rising music and art stars, a family day, the eccentric roaming entertainers. Congratulations to the everyone who was involved. We’re already looking forward to 2024.
Photo credit: Harvey Williams-Fairley