Entering the Etihad Arena via a zip wire with red smoke billowing from his backside, Robbie Williams is never one to be inconspicuous. Starting with Let Me Entertain You, the scene was set for an evening of camp, charm and, as the song suggests, entertainment.

Robbie Williams sings 'Everything Changes' to a fan.

Robbie Williams sings ‘Everything Changes’ to a fan.

Dressed in a range of sequin-clad jackets and resembling a bingo caller, Robbie took the 58,000 stong crowd on a journey through his extensive back catalogue. One lucky fan, Maria from Spain, was selected from the crowd to be serenaded by Robbie singing one of his hits with Take That, Everything Changes. With props surely taking their inspiration from the stage version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, this was the first (and probably only) time you’re likely to see a puppet show as part of a pop concert!

Robbie has a great rapport with the crowd and, after revealing that he reads his fan forum, played some songs for the die-hard fans; Hot Fudge and, in particular, Me and My Monkey, were a welcome addition to the set.

Robbie is, perhaps, at his best when performing hands-aloft tracks. Be it the more upbeat Rock DJ or the anthemic Angels or Feel, this is what the crowd came to hear and – judging by Robbie’s performance – what he came to play.

Some of the songs don’t work in the set –Rudebox in particular does not appear to be a fan favourite.

A great night out with the added bonus of Olly Murs taking on the role of Kylie Minogue during Kids, it is safe to say that although Murs is described by Robbie as his ‘successor,’ the man from Stoke will be around for a while longer yet.

 

 

It is always going to be difficult for Mark Owen to replicate the success of Take That. After playing to tens of thousands of fans each night on the Progress Tour, the singer-songwriter hit the more modest surroundings of The Ritz in Manchester as part of his latest solo tour – the first since the aforementioned Take That reformed.

There was no grand entrance, instead preferring to kick off the proceedings with Giveaway and Raven, two songs from his latest album, The Art of Doing Nothing. Despite the album only being released the week before, the songs were received well, as was his next song Stars, Mark’s new single. The Art of Doing Nothing is arguably Mark’s finest album to date and throughout the hour and a half set, many of his new songs were showcased, all to much applause.

After playing some of his previous hits, Clementine, Four Minute Warning, Makin’ Out and Believe in the Boogie, Mark gave the fans what they wanted – a selection of Take That songs. Sounding great on Shine and Hold Up a Light – songs he usually provides vocals on, he also turned his hand to the Gary Barlow/Robbie Williams led songs The Flood and Rule the World. His voice was much stronger than anticipated and whetted the appetite for the well-anticipated Take That tour announcement.

On this showing, Mark Owen could have a successful solo career, but only in breaks between Take That tours please!

R&B star, Ne-Yo.

R&B star, Ne-Yo.

Liverpool has had to wait a long time for Ne-Yo. Originally scheduled for 2011, several tour dates were postponed to allow the American R&B artist time to complete his new album. A cameo appearance at one of the ‘Radio City Live’ events whetted the fans’ appetite but it wasn’t until two years after the original date that Ne-Yo finally touched down at the Echo Arena as part of his ‘R-E-D’ tour.

One good thing about the rescheduled date is that he now has a bigger back catalogue to perform, and it was one of his newer songs that opened the show – Let’s Go, his collaboration with Calvin Harris. It was a bold choice opening the show with one of his bigger hits instead of saving it for the encore but it was a choice that worked as the fans were up and dancing from the start.

Ne-Yo’s energy never waned throughout the show as he performed hits and

R.E.D album.

R.E.D album.

album tracks from his ten-year career. One in a Million saw him descend into the arena and walk through the crowd much to the dismay of the security! Just managing to keep his trademark hat on, he joked that his hat was ‘Michael Jackson’s glove’ and should not be touched!

It was his singles that received the most applause: Beautiful Monster, So Sick and Closer had the audience enthusiastically singing along.

Closing his show with Let Me Love You and Give Me Everything (his collaboration with Pitbull, Afrojack and Nayer), he left the crowd on a high. Hopefully, the wait before his next show won’t be as long!

Picture the scene: A wintry February night in Liverpool, the remnants of the earlier snow still on the floor, a young man dressed only in gold hotpants on Lime Street… It could only mean one thing – the Rocky Horror Picture Show has landed at the Liverpool Empire!

n's Rocky Horror Show 40th Anniversary

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show 40th Anniversary

Forty years after its premiere in London, the show is as popular as ever. Audience participation is the norm but, due to theatre regulations, there were no water pistols or wedding confetti being used. There were no regulations regarding vocal participation, however, and the Narrator, played by Philip Franks coped admirably with the constant heckles.

The story centres around a naive young couple, played by Ben Forster and Roxanne Pallett, and their enlightenment at the home of Dr Frank N Furter, a ‘transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania.’ Forster and Pallett are perfect in the roles of Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, with Forster’s comic timing being particularly good.

Oliver Thornton puts in a strong performance as Frank and the rest of the ensemble complete a strong cast.

Definitely a show to see before the current tour ends.

 

 

The last time Gary Barlow did a tour without his bandmates, Take That had split up and he was trying to carve out a solo career. Fast forward over a decade and how things have changed for the Frodsham man: Take That are bigger than ever, a successful career as an X Factor judge has been carved out and he sports ‘OBE’ after his name after being commended for his charity work. After playing huge venues with Take That over the past few years, this was a chance for fans to see him ‘up close and personal’ at more intimate venues around the country.

 

Entering the stage at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester to Greatest Day, it soon became apparent that this was going to be much more low key than a Take That show – just Gary, a piano and a microphone. Other Take That songs followed, including Back for Good (complete with Professor Brian Cox on piano nonetheless!), Shine and Rule the World. Take That fans were left with a smile on their faces due to Gary’s rendition of the Pray dance routine!

Gary Barlow onstage at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester.

Gary Barlow onstage at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester.

 

Gary’s solo songs also got an outing with songs such as Open Road and Forever Love being performed. One of the highlights of the evening was undoubtedly his version of Robbie Williams’ recent number one hit, Candy. A definite crowd pleaser!

 

This tour has seen the appearance of several special guests including Mark Owen Robbie Williams, JLS and Gary’s X Factor co-stars, Nicole Scherzinger and Tulisa. Bridgewater Hall saw the arrival of comedian Peter Kay and his take on the classic television theme tunes from Home and Away, The Littlest Hobo, Top Cat and The Love Boat.

 

Peter Kay joins Gary onstage

Peter Kay joins Gary onstage

Barlow has shown that he is equally at ease on the stage with or without his bandmates and the show is definitely one worth seeing if you get the chance. It’s definitely whetted the appetite for a full Take That tour now though – Mr. Barlow, take note!

In 2011, Beverley Knight released the album Soul UK, paying homage to all the British soul musicians who had provided her with inspiration. She said, “The UK is a world-beating producer of musical talent and this genre can sometimes feel overlooked and underplayed.” This is certainly true for the act that played at a crowded Eric’s in Liverpool – Kenny Thomas.

Playing some of his earlier singles interspersed with songs from his latest album, Breathe, Kenny proved that he has not lost any of the vocal prowess that saw him sell over 600,000 copies of his debut album in 1991. Delivering a faultless performance, the London singer soon built up a rapport with the crowd and had everyone dancing to the likes of Outstanding and Trippin’ On Your Love.

Kenny Thomas onstage at Eric’s in Liverpool.

Arguably, the most anticipated song was the 1991 Number 4 hit, Thinking About Your Love. Judging by the amount of cameras filming this part of the show, the audience was not left disappointed.

The only negative point of the evening was that the set only lasted forty-five minutes. It would be good to see him playing slightly larger venues with a full band in place of a backing track.

Kenny’s latest album Breathe is available now.

There’s nothing like a bit of musical nostalgia to transport you back to those carefree teenage days where the only thing you had to worry about was whether you had enough room on your video cassette to record the latest ‘Going Live’ appearance of your favourite band! Two bands did just that at the Liverpool Echo Arena where thousands of twenty and thirty-something females (and the occasional male!) relived days gone by thanks to New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys in the guise of NKOTBSB.

Ever since their first joint performance at the Radio City Music Hall in 2010, NKOTBSB have been touring North America with their co-headlining tour. 2012 has seen the bands take their tour worldwide, including several dates in the United Kingdom.

Emerging to the unmistakable notes of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, the nine-piece soon broke into their own songs, Single and The One. This then led onto separate performances from each of the band and included hits such as You Got It (The Right Stuff) and Larger Than Life. By now, it was apparent that the crowd was split down the middle, with fans of both groups trying to outscream the other!

The next section of the concert took the form of a mini-concert by each group, with both acts slowing down the tempo with some of their ballads. A highlight was New Kids On The Block’s performance of Please Don’t Go Girl where Joey McIntyre paid homage to the world’s most famous boyband by adding in a section of The Beatles’ Help. Ballads are where Backstreet Boys excel and they did not disappoint. I’ll Never Break Your Heart and Incomplete were performed well and showed that Nick Carter does not need to gyrate his way through every song as he had done earlier in the show.

Joey McIntyre performs at the Liverpool Echo Arena

A lot of acts have incorporated a walk through the crowd into their show and NKOTBSB are no exception. Backstreet Boys walked through the arena from the back towards the stage while NKOTB performed Tonight whilst standing in different sections of the crowd.

Like every concert, it is the classics that the fans come to hear and songs such as Hangin’ Tough, Step By Step and Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)were well received.

All in all, a very enjoyable couple of hours!

Love it or loathe it, there is no denying that the X Factor has played a huge part in filling up the Top 40 over the past few years. Previous contestants such as Leona Lewis, Olly Murs and JLS have gone on to have successful careers after appearing on the ITV1 series. However, for every One Direction, there has been several Leon Jacksons – acts that have not had public backing once the show has ended.

A large part of the franchise has taken the form of a live tour where the top-placing finallists get the opportunity to perform to audiences throughout the country. The format stays the same from year to year; each contestant is given the opportunity to perform several of their standout numbers from the show, culminating in a ‘mini-concert’ from the winners – in this case, girlband, Little Mix.

Kicking off the show in Liverpool was Amelia Lily who performed a gutsy version of Christina Aguilera’s Ain’t No Other Man. Her powerful vocals were probably the strongest of all of the contestants and her performance of Queen’s The Show Must Go On was particularly well received.

Amelia Lily onstage at the Echo Arena

Kitty Brucknell and Janet Devlin both put in good shifts, the latter’s vocals appearing much stronger than on television. After a weak first number, The Risk provided an entertaining version of Plan B’s She Said, proving that, as long as they can manage to stay together, there could well be a future for this boy band.

Misha B’s performances were slightly disappointing and did not match up to her TV appearances. Johnny Robinson, however, was just as you would imagine and, although his two songs were enjoyed by the younger members of the audience, it is difficult to see how he will sustain a mainstream singing career.

The Liverpool crowd welcomed home two of their sons – Craig Colton and runner-up Marcus Collins. Craig looked genuinely taken aback by the rapturous applause he received after the first of his numbers, Christina Perri’s Jar of Hearts. The Echo Arena did, however, seem too big for his voice – smaller venues would suit him perfectly. Marcus Collins, despite his voice appearing slightly less powerful than on TV, did exactly what the crowd was anticipating. The likeable Scouser is a born entertainer and had the crowd up and dancing to the likes of Hey Ya and Moves Like Jagger.

Marcus Collins - Home at the Echo Arena

The 2011 winners, Little Mix, ended the show with a series of songs they had performed on the TV show – Cannonball, ET and You Got the Love amongst others. With the demise of Girls Aloud, there is an opening in the market for a female vocal group and Little Mix could definitely fill that void. Confident and strong in vocals, these girls could go a long way.

Posted: April 5, 2012 in February 2012, Uncategorized
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Since its genesis in 2008, the Strictly Come Dancing Live tour has gone from strength to strength. This year’s tour, starting in Birmingham and ending in Belfast, recently rolled into the Liverpool Echo Arena for several shows.

A show like this is only as good as the performers and there was certainly something on display for everyone. 2011 finalists Harry Judd, Jason Donovan and Chelsee Healey showed that they had lost none of the skills they had acquired during the BBC series. Like the TV show, the audience decide who is going to take away the ‘Glitter Ball’ and it was always going to be one of these competitors who would triumph at the end of the evening.

Robbie Savage at the Liverpool Echo Arena

Strictly has become known, not only for the dancing, but for the element of comedy provided in the show. In previous years, the television series has given us Russell Grant, John Sargeant and Ann Widdecombe – their sole purpose having been to bring laughs and entertainment. The live show is no different as this year brought ex-footballer Robbie Savage and ex-WAG Nancy Del’Olio to the stage.

Savage, not exactly known for his modesty, actually undersells himself on the tour – he is not as bad a dancer as he makes himself out to be. Playing it for laughs throughout, his pelvic thrusts (which apparently caused controversy amongst a section of the TV audience) were aimed towards Craig Revel-Horwood after jumping onto the judge’s desk!

Del’Olio was the surprise package of the evening. Known for taking herself seriously, she sent herself up at every opportunity and played the role of femme fatale to perfection. Her performance of ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ was a masterstroke, even if there was little dancing actually on display!

Nancy Del'Olio, playing the Cleopatra role to perfection

As on previous nights, the winner of the evening’s show was Hary Judd – a natural on the dancefloor. Once again, the show has been a triumph and an extremely entertaining night out.

The winner of the Glitter Ball - Harry Judd

Posted: February 26, 2012 in February 2012
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‘James Morrison and the concert I was not destined to see,’ although sounding like the title of a Rhod Gilbert DVD, was actually becoming a reality. After originally having tickets for the cancelled Liverpool show and then being unable to make the rescheduled date, this was the third attempt at seeing the singer-songwriter from Rugby.

After arriving late (due to an inability to leave a hostelry showing the Everton v Manchester City match) and finding a suitable vantage point, it was immediately noticeable how popular Morrison has become since his chart debut in 2006. The standing area of the Manchester Apollo was full to capacity with a mixed crowd, although it was largely women that could be heard singing and screaming along!

James Morrison onstage at the Manchester Apollo

Morrison’s vocals are strong and impeccable and the tracks from his latest album The Awakening were performed exceptionally well. He played all the hits from his previous albums with tracks such as Broken Strings and You Give Me Something receiving rapturous applause.

Known for his more mid-tempo songs, he displayed another welcome side with some upbeat tracks, including a Michael Jackson inspired song. Morrison obviously enjoyed performing these songs and the crowd certainly enjoyed listening to them. It would be nice to see similar tracks added to the set.

It may have taken several attempts to see him live, but it was well worth the wait!