Alesha Dixon – Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, Tuesday October 20.
Two hours, twenty minutes and two support acts down the line from the 7pm start time shown on the tickets, the red curtains finally parted – revealing a slender, sparkly showgirl perched on a swing, her miniscule costume accessorised by an equally tiny top hat, some long black gloves and a cane. This was the opening night of The Alesha Show: an eighteen-date UK tour that will end in Brighton in a month’s time, during which Alesha will also continue to fulfil her weekly judging duties on BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing.
It can’t have been easy to weather the storm of controversy that greeted Alesha’s appointment to the Strictly panel, and perhaps we saw a faint trace of lingering insecurity in her stage performance last night. We were constantly urged to stand up, dance around, wave our hands and sing along, in a manner that sometimes verged on the downright bossy, and there was a certain edge behind all that well-intentioned eagerness to please. Perhaps she’ll loosen up as the tour goes on, giving her audience the space to show a little more spontaneity of their own.
That aside, this was an impeccably well-drilled show, which gave its star ample opportunity to strut her stuff, and remind us just why she was voted the winner of Strictly in 2007. But although Alesha is undoubtedly a well-trained and disciplined dancer, again it would also have been good to see her breaking step, cutting loose, and surrendering to the rhythm.
As for the music – for after all, this was a concert rather than a dance display – the accent was firmly on pop, with most of the songs being drawn from the current album. The new single (To Love Again, co-composed with Gary Barlow) got an early outing, before Don’t Ever Let Me Go got everyone up dancing. Breathe Again was spoiled by too many of those bossy instructions, leaving little room for Alesha to channel the emotion of the song – whereas the more urban-tinged material towards the end of the set played to her strengths as a singer, while reminding us of her early connections with the UK garage scene.
The biggest song – and the best routine – was saved for the encore: a spirited romp through The Boy Does Nothing, which closed the show after a meagre 67 minutes. It had been an evening of candy-floss entertainment: sweet and fun and fluffy, but offering little in the way of lasting nourishment.