Mike Atkinson

Journey South – Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, Tuesday October 3

Posted in gigs, Nottingham Post, Royal Concert Hall by Mike A on October 3, 2006

With a third placing in The X Factor and a surprise Number One album already under their belts, Middlesbrough brothers Carl and Andy Pemberton are now headlining their first major tour. This is a crucial, make-or-break time for the duo, who must be all too aware of the ever-growing string of reality TV casualties around them. From all the talent shows of the last few years, only three acts – Will Young, Girls Aloud and Lemar – have gone on to sustain long-term careers. The odds are stacked against them, and the stakes are high.

Judging by the opening medley – an embarrassingly clod-hopping lurch through The Boys Are Back In Town, My Generation and All Right Now – it seemed that all our worst suspicions were to be confirmed. This was bargain basement, lowest common denominator stuff, as emphasised by lead singer Andy’s clumsy over-eagerness, and his constant grandstanding to the crowd. Matters weren’t improved by the self-composed I’ll Be Your Desire, which merely demonstrated that no-one outside Eurovision should ever rhyme “desire” with “fire” and “higher”. A potentially decent rendition of U2’s One was massacred by a wholly unnecessary 1980s jazz sax solo.

However, all this changed with an “unplugged” She’s Always A Woman, which Carl and Andy dedicated to their parents in the audience. Suddenly, the evening clicked into place, as the brothers abandoned the cheesy covers and turned to the music they loved. Andy calmed down, Carl’s already strong voice moved up a notch, and a real sense of emotion was generated. The warm and tender harmonies of Bryan Adams’ Heaven were a highlight, and a funky Slow Train Coming showed that not all the up-tempo material need be a disaster.

Towards the end, signs of increasing maturity and assurance emerged. Billy Joel’s lengthy, complex Scenes From An Italian Restaurant was a bold risk which worked, and Carl demonstrated his guitar prowess with some fine bluesy licks on Bon Jovi’s Bed Of Roses. Perhaps these showed the way ahead – into adult contemporary soft-rock, appealing to the albums market rather than the singles charts.

Andy and Carl are delightfully unaffected, genuine lads, unashamedly grateful for their success, with solid singing talent and bags of charm. As their proud parents embraced each other during Desperado and the crowd rose to their feet around them, only the most hardened of rock snobs could remain unmoved, and fail to wish them continuing success.

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