Birmingham's LG Arena was brought to its knees last night as it became home to eight very popular acts and a horde of very loud, exuberant and expectant fans who were knocking at the doors well before they were due to be opened. Sheer adrenaline kept everyone warm on a cold evening as they queued expectantly. The excitement was tangible and the screams began long before any of those acts set a foot on the stage, such was the pull of the stars from X Factor and some of the biggest youth pop acts; JLS, The Wanted, James Morrison, Matt Cardle, Cher Lloyd, Tinchy Stryder, Emeli Sande and Pixie Lott. How do you cram these acts into one night? With short sets and quick changeovers, two video screens playing constant pop and BRMB presenters driving an already frenzied crowd into a total fervour.
Starting the whole thing of with a high degree of fashionable flair was Pixie Lott. Predictably stylish and sporting a set of high-waisted designer shorts, she couldn't and didn't put a foot wrong and despite a very short set, her cover version of Stevie Wonder’s 'Isn’t She Lovely?' set the tone for the evening ahead.
Next to take to the stage was emerging star Emeli Sande. This hugely talented singer/songwriter from Aberdeen had a far too short set, but it didn't really matter as she certainly made a huge impact with her single 'Heaven' which perfectly showcased her stunning vocal abilities and range. We're set to hear a lot more from Emeli Sande, and soon I’d wager.
Bringing the grime-rap to Birmingham was Tinchy Stryder, arriving on stage all 'hooded up' with sunglasses we wondered for a minute if he'd sent a stand in, but the bling gave him away! This was far too short a set (a constant theme throughout the evening!) but it was a full on, high energy 4 song extravaganza that lifted the roof off the arena. Oodles of "jump, let's get this crowd moving" to which they duly obliged alongside plenty of good natured banter including telling everyone he was "looking for someone to come backstage" ensured that he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. He told us that he "Loves Birmingham so much" that he was planning to stay overnight.
X Factor winner Matt Cardle was quite the surprise of the night, opening with 'Pull Me Under' it became clear that this seemingly self-effacing guy has quite the voice. The arena was aglow with light from phones and a fascinating array of glow sticks and I have to confess a weakness for performers who appear to love what they do and can't quite believe what they are doing. He filled all required categories and performed 'All For Nothing' and 'Run For Your Life' finishing with his new single 'Starlight' - a strong performance.
Cher Lloyd proved she's not lost her swagger as she stormed on stage looking stick thin and wearing a black and white jump-suit with bright pink trainers. She opened with 'With Ur Love' before moving onto 'Beautiful People' sung with only a guitar accompaniment. 'Want You Back' followed during which six dancers were brought on stage who stayed for the final song 'Swagger Jagger' Her voice has an interesting quality that often sounds like she's inhaled helium, she uses it to good effect though and makes her performance fun, fitting in beautifully with the fun theme of the event.
After a short interval it was the turn of veteran singer/songwriter James Morrison. 'Slave to The Music', 'You Give Me Something' and finishing with 'Up' - this was, as expected very smooth - sheer quality, performed with flair adding a slightly different dimension to the evening's full on frenetic approach.
By now the audience were completely stood standing beside themselves, the required level of anticipation and frenzy for the final two acts had been accomplished. How anyone had any voice left for the constant screaming was quite the miracle, but boy, they sure did and by the time The Wanted took to the stage they were guaranteed a dream crowd - and they got it.
A totally up-beat performance from the off as they bounced onto the stage like lads possessed. Strutting around the stage they told the crowd that they made them feel like they were in the movie Gladiators!
'All Time Low', 'Lightning' ensured that the whole arena was moving and shaking and a great connection with the fans was evident. A promising new single 'Warzone' due for release on Boxing day and written by Max George and Nathan Sykes (the first to be written by the band themselves) was showcased prompting a rapturous reception. Noting that the crowd were "mental and winding up for JLS" (the crowd had actually been going mental since 5pm!) they finished with their summer single "Glad You Came".
And suddenly it was time for the finale, JLS. Oritsť Williams, Marvin Humes, JB Gill and Aston Merrygold have, without doubt, been polished to within an inch of their very lives. The hype had been building all evening and now it was time to prove their worth as the star billing.
'Eyes Wide Shut' and 'Take a Chance' were the familiar, comfortable and guaranteed - openers that gave the 'Jack the Lad Swing' boys the perfect opportunity to ensure that they eased themselves and their crowd into the world of JLS. The whole stadium were at once as one with the Louie Walsh boyband who've secured their place in pop's history and surprised many a cynic with the fact that their ability has been matched with a notable talent.
There were some pretty slick routines and plenty of banter with the crowd, Jay told us that the last time they played Birmingham it was his birthday and the whole arena had sung to him, this time it was the turn of Oritsť who turns 25 tomorrow, with very little urging the crowd launched into their rendition of 'Happy Birthday'
That JLS have a huge following and a great stage presence is beyond dispute, the guys are slick, professional, talented and without doubt one of those acts that generate a great connection with their fans. Finishing their set with 'Do You Feel What I Feel' which included a full on shower of confetti, streamers, smoke and glitz the feel good factor was intact and once again JLS had proved their credentials.
BRMB put on a hugely successful event once again, with eight top chart acts performing to a packed out arena the show represented great value for money - but above all it brought pop, fun and a little sparkle and magic for one night to Birmingham - what more could you ask for?
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