XFACTOR TOUR REVIEW - SHEFFIELD ARENA MARCH 3RD 2009
This years XFACTOR tour, in my humble opinion, has got to be the best ever.
its the old cliche and we hear it year after year but without a shadow of a doubt the massive stageproduction for the series 5 tour with the talent appearing on it is by far incredibly better than its ever been. Even the so-called rejected auditionees stood and held there own on stage and entertained us to the max.
i had the opertunity to meet with the stars of the show prior to the gig for a quick catch up and chat about they'r future past and present, and one thing i can certainly say is that none of them have changed one single bit. From the first day i met them to today, each one of them still seems to be the genuine person i knew before. Theres no diva behaviour, there's no animosity anywhere, their all like a big bunch of mates, touring the country on one big working holiday. And while you may think this all show on their part for the fans and the public eye, let me tell you this, i was kindly invited back to their hotel for an aftershow drink at the bar and although i would never jeopardise my friendship with them by telling of any saucy secrets, there arent any. They are all pals together, they sit and chill out with the dancers and the crew, share a few jokes, chat about the show, have a drink and go off up to bed for a few hours kip before hitting the road again in the morning.
There was of course the odd fan who had followed the tour bus back from the arena, but the guys were very welcoming to them and were happy to have a pic or two taken outside the hotel before retiring indoors to switch off.
so the show itself;
First up with no need for introduction was my personal favourite of the series JLS.
They opened up with their rendition of the king of pop micheal jackson's the way you make me feel'. Styled in very jackson looking biker jackets each with their own unigue colours, JLS made a massive impact on the arena. The firworks were flying the pyro's were spraying and the girls were screaming .
This opened the perfect introduction for the support act of the night , Britains Got Talent runners up SIGNATURE.
They performed their famous jackson dance routine which made them so popular last year when they were just pipped at the post for the winners slot.
So while JLS look on in the backgroud, with a cleverly thought out presentation, wondering 'who on earth do these guys think they are coming on here and interupting our set', they take some drastic action by throwing off their jackets to reveal their very own mercandised clothing range and come back fighting with a great 'billy jean' routine of their own.
At this point we meet our host Jeff Brazier who swiftly introduces the next act of the night LAURA WHITE.
Laura, of course we remember to be the one tipped to win in the early stages and caused public outcry when louis evicted her in favour of Ruth in week 5. And amid all the contreversary and the tabloid scandal regarding her involvement with Matt Firsht from the appluase store (who by the way has no involvement with the xfactor apart from distributing seat tickets to the live shows), i can categorially confirm they are still together and still very much in-love.
Laura remains to this day committed to her music, her songwriting is still ongoing and she is still the down to earth, wonderfully charming girl she has always been. When i chatted to her before the show she announced to awaiting fans who I was and told them they should be asking me for my autograhh and not her. how sweet is that.
Laura sang an upbeat 'somebody elses guy' followed by what i thought was one of the BEST vocals of the night with 'falling'.
Next up we had DANIEL EVANS.
What can i say about Daniel apart from he is the most kindest, sincere person to have ever graced the xfactor with their talent. During his first song Daniel oozed sex appeal to even the most descerning of ladies (myself included) dressed in a very suave and sophisticated grey suit he sang the tom jones favourite 'its not unusual' and even threw in few enjoyable hip thrusts to the dance routine.In complete comparison, he then sang the beautiful ballad dedicated in his late wifes memory, the song that saved him in week 3, 'To where you are'. Now i remember being inside fountian studios during that survival song and there was not a dry eye in the house. To know the meaning of a song and how special it is to an artist always makes for much more of a powerful and believeable performance, this was no different tonight, the crowd went absolutely wild for daniel at the end of this performance and i personaly believe he could become very well known in years to come for making that song his own. I wouldnt be surprised if he has a huge hit with it and uses it for his up and coming album title song. He's currently in talks with an independant record company to release an album in the near future, some original tracks have already been laid to disc and once the time schedule of the tour settles he'l be returning to the studio to complete it.
while most auditionees seek instant fame and fortune, Daniel just wants to earn a decent living from doing what he enjoys the most and of course make his daughter proud - i think he can tick both those boxes already, and its time he had more confidence in himself and realised his full potential. His advice to future auditionees - 'sing from the heart and stay true to yourself', well its worked for him.
Being the true gent that he is, he not only offered to put our drinks on his bill that night, but he's also one of the few acts that replies personally to almost every good will message he recieves. if your lucky enough to have daniel in your life you will have a friend for life.
He's also doing a daily tour video diary on 'Dan Cam' at the momant showing backstage action and a day in the life on tour.This can be viewed on his myspace
page. here is his wembley and sheffield video diary which shows the great fun times they share in the boys dressing room;X Factor Wembley and Sheffield video diary x factor tour 2009
Appearing next was a very sultry RACHEL HYLTON, with a simple but elegant red curtained backdrop. she gave a sexy but strong performance of 'Feeling good', again a week 3 song, and although the public have always had somewhat mixed reactions to her in the past, she most definately pleased the sheffield crowd. Her second choice of song was the immensely popular 'you know im no good' by Amy Winehouse and its quite fair to say it went down very well.
Thres no surprise rachel was a judges favourite from the start, her vocals are immense
Rachel made me feel very welcome backstage aswell as back at the hotel afterwards, even asking about my family whom she met just once way back last year at the judges audition stage, when her two younger children spent time playing with my toddler. she also offered her advice to anyone who's struggling to make it into the industry right now; 'to beileve in your dreams and stay focussed on what you want is what opens doors'. Very sound words from someone who knows the hardship life can throw at you.
so it was now time for the auditionees to take there places centre stage and up first was the wonderful alan penfold wearing his signature black and white outfit with dark shades and white gloves singing and dancing to ; yes you'v guest it michael jackson's 'black or white'. i truly admire this man, a pizza delivery guy, with very little self confidence but masses of life positivity, he was up there performing his heart out and enjoying every single second of it.Next came Phil, the guy with apparent lungs the size of a whales, as he begins we all wait in anticipation of the long note at the end and when it comes to be fair we are then hoping it would hurry up and end - 20 seconds according to my video recording, but considering the fact he disappeared down the stage trap door half way through it, one has to wonder if there wasnt some sound tricks and skull duggery going on there. well it was the ones we'v loved from day one next, the infamous ANT AND SEB, singing their own version of mysterious girl, they'v certainly become more famous than some of the previous years finalists have and boy did they lap up the attention. i have no idea which one is which, but blondie decided to treat the girls to a view of his torso, by stripping it bare while the other turned his back to reveal 'cmon move your body' printed on the back of his hoody. if these two dont make millions in years to come i'l show my a**e in wooly's window..
So speaking of baring one's assets, oh my days were the boys in for a treat when sexy senorita RUTH LORENZO came out she was out on full form, almost bursting out of her strapless leather corset it was a wonder she could breathe as she proved she is the true ultimate rock chick.
From the second she stepped on that stage to the second she left she owned it. She looked fantastic and she sounded incredible, there was not a single piece of floor that she did not dig her 4inch heels into. And something i found to be quite interesting was the resounding opinion from people on their way out at the end of the night that they believed ruth stole the show.
well im not sure about that myself but i'l agree she was amazing. Her two solo songs for the night were 'I love rock and roll' and the infamous ' Purple rain', both of which were performed outstandingly.
Ruth and i shared quite a giggle earlier in the night as she stood for a lengthy time staring at my face puzzling over where she knew me from, before suddenly pouncing on me with a very warm and energetic european hug, declaring ' i rememeber now, im so sorry' . quite understandable to be fair, considering the fact they are meeting thousands of people week upon week.
The beautiful DIANA VICKERS was raised up onto stage from below to what can only be described as her very own boudoir as she belted out 'Call me' knelt on a heartshaped bed . A very energetic performance from the 17 year old, who lets remind ourselves had never sung professionally before entering the Xfactor. Her quirky style that we all know and love is still there, and as she stepped off the bed to introduce her second song, 'patience', she revealed her customary bare feet. looking simply delightful in a fairy-like cream frilled dress she sang probably one of the best songs written in recent times as if it was written just for her.
Diana's another one who immediately made me welcome backstage and was very pleased to hear about the amazing results of a calender i was involved in that she and the other contestants signed back in november, which incidently was auctioned for £1200.00 to raise funds for a specialist cancer hospital in sheffield.
To bring us to the interval nicely the first half performers returned on stage together for a collective 'aint no mountain high enough' which daniel, took on as lead vocal. Considering the fact that all but 2 acts had been on stage already i was wondering how they were going to fill the second half.
so a burger and a bottle of water later and about £30 lighter after visiting the merchandise shop, i settled in with the rest of the bobbing heads to find out what we had in store next.
EOGHAN QUIGG - well you just knew as soon as he stepped out the girls would be screaming the house down and with a massive 'high school musical' performance to do i hope he had his weetabix because the dance routine was huge and involved covering every square inch of the stage floor.
Whilst on the subject of the dancers,i have to say they were all fabulous but one that stood out especially was one of the leading males who is none other than Pheonix Ampadu, from the BBC hit show Dance X.
When 'eggnogg' first auditioned, he was just 15 and simon famously said to him ' whatever it is you've got it', simon isn't often wrong and he wsn't in this case either, as eoghan already has his album available to pre-order at play.com and when it is released on April 6th (just a few days after the end of the tour) itis sure to be a big hit.he's also confirmed as a guest at some dates of the forthcoming boyzone tour.
Eoghan's next song began with one of the most resounding collective 'aaaaahhhhh' s i'v ever heard in my life, as he sat solonmly on the steps and announced the word ' Ben' a silence fell on the auditiorium. To say it was beautiful would actually be an understatement.
Then a real treat came as he and diana performed a very genuine 'everytime you need a friend' duet, before the whole arena rose to their feet and joined him singing 'never forget' .Eoghan who is still only 16 has his dad accompanying him on the uk tour.
The highlight of the night for me came next, it was JLS back on stage dressed all in white performing rihanna's hit 'umbrella' with astons trademark backflip causing alot of noise to be made from the adoring girls, yes i guess i screamed with delight too....just a little bit. These boys, no matter how many times i've seen them now never fail to wow me. They get better and better with every performance yet they'r still the nicest, most down to earth and approachable boys you could ever know . They have time for every fan, friend and aquaintance and one thing i'v fondly come to know is that they never forget a face or a name. To watch the boys at the backstage Meet and Greet before the show is quite endeering, they are like everyones best friend, spending a few minutes with each one individually and chatting as if they'v known them years.
The rapor they have with the fans shows on stage immensely as they started a chant with the jam packed arena saying "we say JL, you say......."a rather loud "S" 's followed each and every time.
They ended their spot with 'Beautiful girl/Stand by me' which was a well known piece of theirs not only from the XF live show 7, when they sung for survival against rachel, but also from their time trailing the showcases in london before winning the urban music award in 2007 for best unsigned act.Unfortunately thats one award they wont be winning again as they are now signed and well on ther way to chart success with their debut single coming soon.
They also have another big tour coming up as support for Fame Academy's Lemar which runs until mid April. One date in particular that i'm especially looking forward to is on the day of my 30th birthday when they return to Sheffield to the city hall - which by coincidence, they were surprised to learn, is only a few steps walk round the corner from the hotel bar where we were chillin' after tonights show. The boys were their usual charming selves expressing that i surely cant be turning 30 next. Flattery will get you everywhere boys.
Series 5's winner ALEXANDRA BURKE came next, and while she refrained from the backstage meet and greet, she certainly didnt miss a beat on stage. Starting with a very dramatic entry to britneys 'toxic' wearing a custom-made dress by designer Suzanne Neville, her make up artist Holly Silius, had her looking like the true superstar that she is. As she was raised up from fire and smoke below stage and high into the air, on quite a small platform considering the fact she had half a dozen dancers on there with her, the electrictiy almost blew the arena's roof off.
She had a massive dance routine throughout toxic and straight into 'please dont stop the music' and never faulted, proving exactly why she was voted the winner in the first place. After a short musical interlude she returned to stage wearing what could only be descibed as a stunning gold dress only shirley bassey would be proud of, but she looked amazing and as she began her rendition of 'so beautiful' she sounded it too. Then came another big ballad Beyonce's 'listen', again showing us just what an amazingly versatile act she is and a worthy winner. So while she makes her vow to the audience to make them proud and show how thankful she is for their votes we can all guess which song would end her set . 'Hallelujah' - there was no other way to describe this other than world class. At the hotel afterwards alex showed her 'normality' by chilling with the rest of the guys and gals, and it was lovely to see how welcoming she was to fellow bootcamper 'joseph chukukere' and his girlfriend who also popped by to catch up.
So just as we all thought the show had come to an end the 8 finalist turn back out for the finale. As they sung their own chart topping single 'hero' video footage on the screens behind was shown of the very start of the auditions where we meet all 12 finalists and see their journey unfold through each week, bringing back all those memories back from seeing those fresh faced auditionees turn into overnight success stories.
And as it comes to an end and the crew start to pack down, the stars pack up their cases and head for the bus, another show, another city. do they feel in anyway tedious? not on your nelly they dont. Each one is living each gig as if it were their last and giving it their all.
i can only conclude that it has been one of the best nights out i'v had for a long long time, i would recommend anyone to go if tickets are still available at any of the venues to follow, and if you are lucky enough to have a meet and greet before the show, which very few are, make sure you make the most of it as time is limited, and dont forget to say hi from me.