The Osmonds – Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, Wednesday April 4
(originally published in the Nottingham Post)
54 years on from their debut performance, with over 100 million record sales under their belts, The Osmonds have finally decided to bid us all farewell. This isn’t just their final tour of the UK; it’s also their longest, a fifty-date marathon which has been billed as “a great big thank you to all our fans for their love and support through the years”.
Only two members of the original barbershop quartet remain. 58-year old Merrill now bears an uncanny resemblance to Kenny Rogers – as his brothers weren’t slow to point out – and while 57-year old Jay might be a little thicker around the waist, his energy levels remain undimmed. An Osmonds show wouldn’t be an Osmonds show without a drum solo from Jay, and the trouper acquitted himself more than ably.
Merrill and Jay were joined on stage by not-so-“little”-anymore Jimmy, the baby of the bunch at a mere 48. A fourth brother, Wayne, had been expected on the tour, but a recent stroke has sadly forced him into premature retirement. Most of the fans already knew, and some paid tribute by dressing in orange, his signature colour from the old days.
But if the brothers were somewhat lacking in numbers, they more than made up for this by delivering a spirited, energised show, which felt fresher and more focussed than some of their more syrupy recent tours. The familiar old hits – “we’ve even had a couple of good ones”, quipped Jimmy – were bulked up by new material from their current album, Can’t Get There Without You, which is being promoted by Tesco. “We asked them to stock it between the wine and the cheese”, Jimmy grinned. “I’m cheesy – Merrill’s whiney – and Jay’s crackers.”
Underlining the “farewell” aspect of the tour, much use was made of cleverly assembled video montages, with footage that spanned the full five and a half decades. During Remember Me from the new album, absent brothers Alan, Wayne and Donny each materialised on screen, prompting warm applause from their ever-adoring fans.
Tribute was paid to the early days, in the form of a delightful barbershop number, performed unaccompanied and at breakneck speed. Breakthrough hit One Bad Apple took us back to the “bubblegum soul” period, Jimmy’s falsetto sounding particularly fine. The pile-driving Crazy Horses opened and closed the show, reminding us that The Osmonds could always rock out when they wanted to. The inevitable Long Haired Lover From Liverpool was served up with self-deprecating good humour, as giant balloons were released into the crowd. Arms swayed high for The Proud One, the first big ballad of the set, while Let Me In oozed class, and a medley of Are You Up There and I Believe prompted the longest and most emotional ovation of the night.
They might never have been fashionable, but you don’t become the world’s longest-serving pop group by chasing trends. Instead, The Osmonds have maintained their position by sticking to time-honoured show business values, by never short-changing their fans, and by never taking their enduring popularity for granted. Corny as it might sound, we’ve loved them for a reason.