Following recent chart successes for The Wanted (featuring Newark lad Jay McGuinness) and Chase & Status (who enlisted the vocal talents of Nottingham’s Liam Bailey for their current hit Blind Faith), prospects could at last be brightening our local pop hopefuls. This must be encouraging news for former Nottingham High School student Bianca Claxton, who performed last night as part of the five-piece girl group Parade.
Fresh from supporting Shakira on her recent UK tour, the girls – plus Edinburgh’s impressive Carrie Mac, who opened the show – are now performing warm-up duties for Alexandra Burke. Looking chirpily confident in their sparkling club gear, Parade demonstrated that they have the guts and determination to break through.
Two years on from her victory on The X Factor, Alexandra Burke’s career is progressing at a comfortable pace. She hasn’t yet matched Leona Lewis in terms of global recognition, and 2008’s runners-up JLS might be ahead of her in box-office terms – but with six hit singles to her credit, the 22-year old Londoner has already side-stepped the fate of early stallers such as Leon Jackson and Joe McElderry.
Alexandra’s fans have waited a long time for her first solo tour, and few were likely to have come away disappointed. Clocking in at a brisk hour and fifteen minutes, her set was arguably a little on the brief side, but the show’s slick professionalism and keen attention to detail ensured that we were not left feeling short-changed (although given the eye-popping amount of bare flesh on display, perhaps some economies had been made in the costume department).
Switching easily from club anthems to love ballads and back again, Alexandra seemed equally at home with both styles. Vocally flawless throughout, all that she really lacked were a couple of truly classic tracks to call her own. As it was, the strength of the songs that she chose to cover – Ne-Yo’s Closer, Beyonce’s Listen (possibly her best vocal of the night), and of course Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah – did rather make her own material suffer by comparison.
But for all the vocal dexterity on display – to say nothing of those figure-revealing outfits – perhaps Alexandra’s most winning asset was her smile: generous, gracious, guilelessly grateful and, at times, ever so slightly goofy. So perhaps these mid-sized venues are where she truly belongs: large enough to stage a spectacle, but small enough to connect with her loyal fans. If that’s the case, then everything about last night’s show suggested that Alexandra Burke’s future is a secure one.
Set list: Broken Heels, Nothing But The Girl, Dumb, Start Without You, Perfect, Overcome, Closer, Hallelujah, Survivor/Bootylicious/Listen/Independent Women, Good Night Good Morning, Dangerous, All Night Long, The Silence, Bad Boys