“ Live tour of the popular ITV programme 'The X Factor' featuring singing and pop music. „
Up until last year I was a bit of an X Factor addict. I watched it religiously and enjoyed spouting my thoughts on forums and the like. Unfortunately last year's series revealed for me just how manipulated the show was and how close Simon Cowell has reached his sell-by date.
Unfortunately for me, my daughter caught the bug for the show just as my ardour was waning, and she fell hard for the charms of Aiden Grimshaw. When he left the show, she was devastated and her ardour hasn't diminished in the intervening period. I decided to take her to the live show so she could see her idol in the flesh, even though I wasn't particularly enamoured with anyone else on the tour myself.
The tour has been doing the rounds since February visiting most major cities in the UK and also took in Dublin. This isn't a small tour however - which figures really with this being the X Factor , possibly the most hyperbolic TV show ever. All shows have played in large arenas and the set comprises of one huge main stage and a smaller stage in the middle of the hall.
The acts who finished in the top 9 of the live shows made the tour. Usually it's the top 8 but Aiden Grimshaw, who came 9th last year was slipped in - perhaps due to the devotion of his fans online. Believe me, I know of the power of these girls (for they are invariably girls) - my daughter happily helps something Aiden related trend on Twitter several times a week.So the line-up for this year's tour is:-
* Aiden Grimshaw
* Paije Richardson
* Katie Waissel
* Mary Byrne
* One Direction
* Rebecca Ferguson
* Matt Cardle
This is a pretty cynical tour - although you soon realise that some acts are viewed as far more marketable than others. It is about extracting cash from you and while the ticket wasn't particularly expensive for an arena tour (£40 including booking fee) there is a sense that this is about the X Factor brand more than anything else.
Merchandising reveals the acts that the brand feel are most marketable - so while Matt may have won the competition and there is a small selection of Matt merchandise, it's Cher and One Direction they are pushing the most.
We got a programme which included a "signed" (not real signatures) picture of One Direction for £10. The only Aiden item on offer was a similarly not really signed picture which my daughter snapped up for £2.
I had phoned ahead and was told the concert would start at 7.30 pm and finish at 10.00 pm so we took our seats at about 7.20 pm and the big screens were advertising X Factor auditions for this years' series, the worst ever 10 auditions, and videos from alumni from the show including Olly Murs and JLS. There was also a gimmicky advert inviting people to use their mobile phones to photograph a code for pre-ordering Cher's new album and the opportunity to text your photo "for free" to get it included in an X Factor poster. Which wasn't free.
By the time the show had started it felt like I was watching the TV show at home - after all I'd had the adverts - but the one glaring omission was, of course, the judges. Everything else was the same however - from the opening sequence of the TV show to Peter Dickson's booming voice overs. We also get video introductions to the acts featuring clips from each contestant's "journey" on the show.
The show opened with Cher - who my daughter loves. Me I find her ordinary and while there is no denying she is an energetic performer, I felt last year she blended into the crowd of dancers whenever she performed, and her opening number, "The Clapping Song" did nothing to change my mind. There was also a sneaking suspicion she may be miming but the acoustics in the Glasgow SECC are dreadful so it was hard to know for sure. Cher does seem to have the marmite effect -there was a small section of the crowd - mostly teenage girls - who roared and cheered for her while there was a significant section who remained seated throughout. She performed several songs throughout the evening, being enthusiastic when doing Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" and a tad too dramatic for me when doing "Stay". I have always said I'm not the target audience for Cher which might explain why I don't "get" her but when you compare her rapping and very ordinary vocals to Jessie J you can't help but think Cher may have missed the boat. It certainly would explain the fact her album is being punted so heavily already. She seemed engaging enough but for me she lacks genuine star quality. I have no doubt her first album will do well but I really don't foresee a long-term career for her.
Paije Richardson was next up and he's and enthusiastic and technically good vocalist but I would imagine he'll find himself working more as a backing singer than a lead singer in the future. His mash up of "I'm a Believer" and "Hey Ya" worked the audience well but the image and overall sound was tired, as is his image. He upped the ante a bit with his second song, "Killing Me Softly" but copying the Fugees doesn't make you relevant in 2011. If ever anyone showed how being a great singer isn't enough in a cut throat industry, it's Paije.
Aiden Grimshaw came onstage to loud cheers from not only my daughter but a large number of teenage girls. His first song was "Diamonds are Forever", which he performed with a cane in hand. Grimshaw is, I will admit, an acquired taste. I quite like him and he exudes the star quality missing from Cher but I dislike how he has been told to be "intense" by the producers when I expect he'd quite like to do something a little more light hearted. Grimshaw just about managed to keep his performance on the right side of camp for his first song. He returned later to do "Mad World" in the style of Gary Jules but retained a rather disturbed facial expression throughout.
The smaller second stage was used for Cher's performance of "Stay" and Grimshaw's "Mad World" which was a good decision as it worked as a more intimate platform for both acts. Unfortunately it was located in the middle of the area in which we were seated and meant my daughter had to stand on her seat to see both performances without having to resort to the huge video screens. It didn't help that some of the stewards enjoyed telling people off with an almost religious zeal if you so much as kneeled on your seat.
Katie Waissel was uninspiring in her version of "Help" which she sang in a thin and reedy voice. She is another performer who struggles to own a stage but lacked the enthusiasm of Cher in her performance, even when she returned later on to do "King of the Swinger"s complete with some dancers. Perhaps she might entertain in a small venue but in an arena she's quite simply not able to rise to the occasion.
Competition runner-up Rebecca Ferguson was much better than Katie, and her status as runner-up was acknowledged with some huge video clips behind her as she performed - although she just looked lovely in them really. Ferguson was particularly good on "Show Me Love", revealing a natural affinity with dance music, even though she can't actually dance herself. She wasn't quite a singing candle although she came a bit close on "Distant Dreamer", having been placed on a large pedestal with a couple of large flags behind her. It didn't help it was such a turgid song either.
She redeemed herself with "Sweet Dreams" which got the audience moving again but I must admit I didn't really rate her version of "Make You Feel My Love" - it felt like she was going through the motions to me. She also seems to have a genuine problem getting down stairs in heels - with dancers giving her a hand on occasion.
Ferguson does show a genuine likeability factor in her performances and has a stage presence that many on the tour seem to lack but I have to say her voice isn't really to my taste, even though she is undoubtedly beautiful and personable.
Joke performer Wagner did two mashups, the first being "She Bangs/Love Shack" which I am happy to report featured the bongoes which were such a memorable part of his "Love Shack" performance on TV. Although Wagner really cannot be considered seriously as a vocalist, he is maddeningly entertaining and his enthusiasm is contagious. Most of the younger people didn't get him but those over the age of 16 enjoyed his joie de vivre if not the vocals.
On his second mashup, Wagner did "Spice Up Your Life/Livin' La Vida Loca" and once again he performed with great gusto, and unlike Cher he stood out amongst his dancers. The lighting on his sets was good and on his second song the famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign was channelled to announce him, which tickled me.
Mary Byrne only performed one song, and while she is a pleasant enough woman, vocally she is fails to understand the difference between increasing the volume and shouting. So instead of emoting her way through James Brown's "It's A Man's Man's Man's World" she just bellowed her way through it. I read recently that apparently Tesco have kept Mary's supermarket checkout job open for her - on this performance she should seriously consider returning to it and keeping the singing for karaoke in her local on a Saturday night.
It goes without saying that One Direction received the biggest screams of the night. A boy band put together for the show, these lads are all young, if not necessarily handsome. Zane and Harry seem most likely to push the girlies buttons. I found them likeable, if vocally dodgy, on the TV show so it was something of a surprise to hear them sound far tighter on their harmonies at the concert. They were bouncy on "Kids in America" and "My Life Would Suck Without You" but they won hard hearted old cynic me over with an acoustic version of Bruno Mars' "Grenade" which even within the appalling sound quality in the SECC sounded excellent. I would go so far as to say it was the best performance of the night.
They also performed the song which would have been their winner's single had they got more votes, "Forever Young" - and this was typical Simon Cowell bland ballad territory which I live in hope doesn't live to see the light of day as a single. The vocals were much poorer on this too - Zane may well be one of the cutest but if ever a member is going to go off key in One Direction, it will most likely be him.
Matt Cardle, who won the competition, didn't grace the stage until the last 20 minutes or so of the show. He was sparkling on his first song, Katy Perry's "Firework", with pyrotechnics to accompany him on the chorus. Unfortunately the rest of the songs he sung were ballads and while Matt, like Rebecca, is genuinely likeable, his set became a bit boring as a result.
The first time I heard Cardle sing "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" I thought it was magical - but by the time I heard it in the concert I think I had arrived at the way a lover feels when they've seen that person's face for the millionth time. The magic just didn't linger for me. He was better at the Moody Blues classic "Nights in White Satin" but when it comes to Bruno Mars tracks, One Dimension pipped him to the post with their cover over Cardle's version of "Just the Way You Are".
Cardle did apologise to the crowd for the title change of his winner's song, Biffy Clyro's "Many of Horror" to the more Cowell pleasing "When We Collide" - and to his credit he introduced the song by its original title. Cardle had the pyrotechnics and he also had a raised bridge to walk along whilst performing - one can only surmise this was part of his winner's prize. He was competent if uninspiring but it has to be said he was very popular with the audience.
The show came to an end with a rather flat ensemble performance of "Heroes", which was of course a cover of the David Bowie song which was released for charity at the end of last year. It meant everyone was able to perform together for the finale but I found myself wishing that a different song had been chosen for this as it resulted in the show limping to an end.
My daughter absolutely loved the concert and it has to be said, most of the 10,000 strong crowd felt the same way. I had mixed feelings about it however and particularly found the advertising before the show and during a 25 minute interval halfway through to be intrusive and annoying.
It's also when you see the show on a huge stage such as that at the SECC that you realise how hard it is for an artist to fill it and having seen A listers such as Pink and Beyonce in huge settings and carrying it off just reiterates that these artists are, in effect, fish out of water.
It may well be that Cher and One Direction go on to bigger and better things once the tour is over and the original contracts the artists signed for it have expired. Whether that will last however is something I have to question. Aiden has the potential to go far but what you see in him and Cher in particular is the germ of something that if cultivated carefully could grow into something special. I have no faith in Cher being cultivated and it would seem her album is being promoted in an almost unseemly rush - perhaps because in the fickle world of teenage pop, the next sensation is likely to be along soon. If Aiden signs a contract with Syco I fear he will forever be forced to be "intense" and his Grimling fans will grow out of teen angst, lighten up and leave him behind.
I just wish that instead of showing overused clips from the TV show between acts we had been allowed to work out who was performing for ourselves. The hyperbole over the contestants on the TV show is ridiculous enough after all - do we really need it on the tour too?
To be fair the production wasn't done on the cheap - the lighting effects in particular were excellent and there was a decent sized group of dancers who were effective throughout. And of course part of me feels churlish being so ambivalent about these people who are getting to do things other artists strive for years to do but never achieve.
Photography was allowed too although there were signs warning about random bag searches for cameras over 35mm but my 35mm camera produced pretty good results - although we were seated reasonably near the front of the main stage.
At the end of the day if you love the X Factor you will love this. If you loathe it you wouldn't be seen here in a million years of course but I put my growing ambivalence about the TV show to one side and enjoyed myself - even if most of that was down to the look of sheer joy on my daughter's face when she finally saw her first ever crush in the flesh. As they say in the Mastercard ads, that was priceless.
I watch the X factor every year and I was delighted when Matt Cardle won this year because not only do I think he is a really good singer he is also very yummy! I was also a fan of one direction and so when the tour dates were announced I was keen to get tickets but initially I couldn't get any. However, back in January by chance I happened to check the ticketmaster website and managed to get some excellent tickets for the afternoon show on the 12th March and this is my review.
The show was at the MEN arena in Manchester and was due to start at 2.30pm. The doors opened at 1.00pm and so my sister and I headed there at about 1.30pm. As we got into the arena there were lots of people selling merchandise but this was very highly priced with t shirts at £20.00 and mugs and programmes at £10.00 for example and so we gave this a wide berth. Many people were buying the merchandise though and so I am sure they made a killing! The majority of the merchandise was either Matt Cardle or 1 Direction related because they are the most popular contestants.
As you go to enter the main part of the arena there are stewards there waiting to check your tickets and at this point they will usually ask to look in your bag. You are not allowed to take in your own refreshments and they will no doubt be removed if you try and take some in. The stewards tell you where you should enter the arena to get to your seats. When you go through the doors to the arena there will be another steward who will either tell you where your seat is or show you to it. We were lucky enough to be floor seated on the second block back from the stage on row two so we were both very excited as we knew we would be able to see plenty and really enjoy the show.
In the build up to the show there were no warm up acts to speak of and instead on the two big screens there were the top ten worst ever X Factor auditions being shown which gave the audience a good giggle. This counted down to number five before the show started. There were also various pop videos shown to get people in the mood for the show if they weren't already as well as messages from the X Factor contestants who would be taking part in the show.
The show began a little after 2.30pm and I thought the best way to run through my review would be to review each contestant as a whole as they came on all mixed up and at various points!
Cher Lloyd: Cher opened up the show and before I begin talking about her I guess I should say that on her first audition I loved her and then as the show continued I saw her to be arrogant and a bit of a brat. I wasn't looking forward to seeing her perform but she was actually really really good! She performed five songs over the course of the show which were get your freak on, stay, girlfriend, boom boom boom shake the room and whip my hair. The majority of her songs were high energy with dancers and I particularly enjoyed whip my hair as I like this song anyway. Cher sang well and did not come across as cocky at all.
Paije Richardson: Paije performed two songs on the night and they were a mash up of I'm a believer/Hey Ya and then killing me softly. Paije has a very strong voice and was really fun to watch.
Aiden Grimshaw: Aiden was one of my favourite performers on the X Factor when it was on television and I was looking forward to seeing him sing. In true Aiden form he did two very intense songs including diamonds are forever and mad world. Mad world was absolutely amazing in my opinion.
Wagner: Ok, so I hate this bloke. The fact that he stayed in the competition when he cannot sing was a complete joke as far as I was concerned and I wasn't looking forward to seeing him at all. He performed two songs which were mash ups of spice up your life and living la vida loca, as well as a mash up of she bangs and love shack. Not surprisingly he looked like he still didn't know the words to any of the songs however he did look like he was having an absolute ball out there and I guess for that you have to give him credit!
Mary Byrne: Mary has an amazing voice but in a way she bores me as it is all a bit the same. She sang could it be magic and mans world and although her voice was very strong people didn't seem that interested as it was all a bit down tempo sadly. She did look like she was having the time of her life up there though!
Katie Waissel: Katie performed two songs these being king of the swingers from the jungle book and help. She wasn't one of my favourites but she did ok and put on a decent show, especially on the king of the swingers number.
Rebecca Ferguson: Rebecca came second in the competition but to be honest you would have thought it was 1 direction who took that honour really based on the line up on the show and the order of things. Rebecca did sing quite a few songs though including show me love, make you feel my love and sweet dreams are made of these. She did a couple more but I am unsure of the titles. Rebecca was very entertaining and comes across as so genuine. Her voice sounds a lot better live in my opinion.
1 Direction: Ok so I was dying to see these boys perform even though I am much too old to like them and it makes me sound like a cougar! They performed quite a few songs including kids in America, only girl in the world, grenade, my life would suck without you and their upcoming single forever young. The boys were full of energy and they really can sing live which is great! The girls of course were screaming for the boys and you can tell they are living the dream!
Matt Cardle: Of course I am saving the best for last here and he was the man I was dying to see. Week upon week watching Matt perform on the show I thought he was amazing and seemed so genuine, just a normal Essex boy who has a dream. Matt came on right at the end of the show and yes I screamed! He began by singing Firework, then moved on to knights in white satin, just the way you are, the first time ever I saw your face and when we collide. It was a nice set and he performs just as well in an arena as he did on the television and so I was not left feeling disappointed in any way.
At the end of the show all the contestants close by singing their song for help the heroes which was titled Heroes. It was a really good finale which included all of the acts singing individual parts and finished the show off nicely.
The show is staged very professionally and looks as good as any of the previous concerts I have seen at the MEN arena and so I think there was a lot of time put in to this. During performances there are flashes of fire at the front and at the end there are paper flecks sprayed out in to the air which literally fill the arena! It looked brilliant. There is not long to wait between each performer and to fill the very small gap there is simply the X factor video of their time shown on the big screens.
The majority of the songs are performed on an end stage however some of the songs are performed on a circular stage in the middle of the arena which I think is a great touch for those people who are further back and are probably relying on the big screens to see thief favourite acts. What was great about being on the floor was that we got a hunch when someone was going to be on the circular stage and ran over that way. Lots of people did it and although we weren't supposed to we did get very close to 1 direction performing as well as Aiden which was nice....I was gutted when the stewards stopped everyone running for Matt though! My disappointment was short lived though because when singing just the way you are some steps and a platform lowered and this was literally right over our heads but was really low down! Matt walked across singing the songs, waving to fans and pointed at me! I have the photo evidence to prove it! This was nice as again it let the fans have a good look at their X Factor winner!
The show finished at 5.15pm which was all the contestants singing apart from a 25 minute interval in the middle which allowed people a toilet break and to get drinks and things. For me this was a really decent time for a concert as sometimes I have been to them where they are over in little over an hour which is disappointing as tickets are always expensive. In the interval the final five X Factor worst auditions were shown...for those who are interested and a fan of the show the chicken man was the worst one apparently with his rendition of tragedy!
Tickets cost me £34.50 each including a booking fee and postage and things, which yes is not cheap but for the day out I had and the fun that came with it I can honestly say it was well worth the money and I only wish I could go again!
Thank you for reading my review!