Mike Atkinson

The X Factor Live – Nottingham Arena, Wednesday February 21

Posted in Capital FM Arena, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on February 21, 2007

First things first. The X Factor is a talent show. For the contestants, it’s a chance to make dreams come true – however short-lived those dreams might turn out to be. For the voting audience, it’s a chance to identify with the ordinary people who apply for the show – to follow their journeys, and to stake a claim in their success stories.

As a talent show, The X Factor can only measure potential. Its contestants are forced into a bear pit, which magnifies their hunger for fame – but its very nature dictates that they are never given the chance to develop as individual artists. Instead, a series of well-worn classics from established stars is forced upon them, setting up comparisons which are rarely fulfilled.

In a live setting, the naïve inexperience of these hopefuls is magnified to an almost cruel degree. Some acts, such as the show’s much put-upon underdogs the MacDonald Brothers, stepped up to the mark, and acquitted themselves with competence and dignity. They understood the game. Knowing that these are the biggest stages that they will ever appear on, they seized the moment and had a ball.

For other, lesser talents, the underlying desperation could not be masked. Witnessing Robert earnestly massacring All Night Long and Ashley clumsily grandstanding his way through Easy was, to anyone who cares about music as opposed to mere spectacle, a depressing experience.

Opening the show’s second half, gravel-voiced Ben Mills played shamelessly to the crowd, smothering any chance of making an emotional connection under layers of directionless bombast. Pint-sized swinger Ray Quinn opted for the sentimental angle, belting out My Way in pure Las Vegas style. Only Leona Lewis – the show’s ultimate champion and a truly gifted, soulful vocalist – displayed anything resembling real star quality. The night belonged to her.

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