Originally published in the Nottingham Post.
It has not been an easy few days for Little Mix. On Sunday, a tabloid kiss-and-tell accused One Direction’s Zayn Malik of cheating on band member Perrie Edwards (she’s the one with the purple hair). Cutting short a promotional visit to France, Zayn flew into town for crisis talks. The couple were snapped in a Nottingham taxi, not looking especially lovey-dovey; Zayn in particular looked downright sheepish.
On Monday morning, Leigh-Anne from the band took to Twitter, crossly denying that any cheating had taken place. (“He loves her so much.”) And by Monday evening, as the girls made their way to the Royal Concert Hall, press speculation had reached fever pitch. How would Perrie cope with the pressures of the stage show? Would she stand by her man, or would she flip him the finger and show him the door? Would there be tears, tirades, an onstage meltdown? Well, the hacks could only hope.
Sadly for the gossip-hounds, but happily for the hordes of young “Little Mixers” who had been looking forward to the show for months, the girls put on their best smiles and sailed cheerfully through the show, never once referring to the Zayn-and-Perrie incident. This was only the third date of their first full tour, and the 2011 X Factor champions still had a lot to prove.
Bouncing onto the stage in crop tops and baggy blue trousers, they launched straight into We Are Who We Are, from their debut album DNA. A troupe of buff boy dancers joined them for Stereo Soldier, the equally chirpy second number, with shirts tied round their waists in case it got a bit parky.
“Thanks for supporting us from the start”, said Jesy, explaining that the girls had become “my best friends and my family”. As the foursome hoofed through Always Be Together, video footage showed them goofing around in dressing rooms and on tour buses. During one of the costume changes, mini-interviews with each band member flashed onto the screens. Leigh-Anne revealed her beauty tips (“cleanse, tone and moisturise”), and Jesy shared her life lessons (“I’ve learned to have more confidence in myself”).
Despite an overly shrill sound mix – a faithful reproduction of their album, but only if you were used to hearing it through laptop speakers or on a smartphone – the girls delivered a convincing, polished performance. Chart-topping single Wings was an early highlight – so much so, that they reprised it for the encore – and an unaccompanied rendition of En Vogue’s Hold On, with gorgeous four-part harmonies, proved that they could deliver vocally. Other covers included Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass, TLC’s No Scrubs and Katy Perry’s E.T.
“Sometimes, being in Little Mix is like a curse”, Jesy confessed towards the end of the show. She never got round to explaining why, but perhaps recent events had reminded her of just how tough life can be at the top. If that was so, then hopefully the ear-shredding screams of the ever-loyal Little Mixers had helped to lift the curse, at least for one more night.
Originally published in the Nottingham Post.
Osmonds fans are a friendlier bunch than most. “Are you enjoying it?” ask the couple on our right. “Wonderful, aren’t they?” In the interval, the lady behind us leans forward. “I’m 78 years old, and they make me feel like I’m 18 again”, she beams. Meanwhile, the super-fan on our left is telling us about the “I love Donny” slogan that she daubed on her bedroom wall. Forty years on, it’s still there; her mother won’t paint it out.
They’re a mischievous bunch, as well. “Please stay in your seats”, urges Donny, descending from the stage for a promenading rendition of The Twelfth Of Never. Fat chance, mate. A couple of times, he’s almost wrestled to the floor, as ladies who are old enough to know better launch themselves at their idol, seizing their moment after all these years. My super-fan friend gets a kiss, and shrieks with delight; my mate gets a manly high-five.
For Close Every Door, Donny plays the part of an imprisoned Joseph, stripped of his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. “Do what you want with me”, he intones, surrendering to captivity with solemn dignity. The invitation is too much for his adoring army. There’s a roar of fruity laughter, laced with a hint of menace. It doesn’t derail him. “Hate me and laugh at me”, he glares, continuing the verse. It almost feels like a rebuke.
Hate him and laugh at him? Donny’s no stranger to either, and neither is his sister Marie. Mocked for their wholesomeness in the Seventies, dismissed as old hat in the Eighties, they stood their ground and shrugged off the knocks. And just look at them now: fresh from a four year run in Las Vegas, filling arenas, back on top and having the last laugh.
And there’s a lot of laughter in a Donny and Marie show. “I have to say Hi to my favourite fan”, says Marie, puffed out after a rocking mash-up of Walk This Way and These Boots Are Made For Walking that’s as raunchy as her faith will allow. Crouching in front of the wind machine, she duly fans herself, good and proper (“I’m so hot!”), before grabbing a bottle of water and slugging it down in one. (“And you thought Mormons couldn’t drink!”)
It’s a polished, practised show, but there are surprises along the way. The other Osmond brothers are also in the UK, touring in the Seventies musical Boogie Nights. Donny teases us with an announcement, the crowd goes wild… and then a bunch of fake Osmonds prance onto the stage, recreating dance moves from one of the early hits. At the end of the number, Marie saunters on from the wings. “If you can handle it, I have another dancer”, she grins, ushering real-life brother Jay onto the stage. Donny looks genuinely shocked. The brothers confer, some stools are rustled up, and we are treated to an impromptu duet: Love Me For A Reason, the biggest Osmonds smash of all.
Seventies nostalgia is a key element of the evening – how could it not be? – but there’s much more besides: Las Vegas-style production numbers, Broadway medleys, a little bit of country, a little bit of rock ‘n roll (they have a song about that), and even a touch of opera. Marie’s soprano is a revelation, and her impassioned renditions of Pie Jesu and Nessun Dorma earn her two of the biggest ovations of the night. “I know you’re all here to see Donny”, she sighs – but sibling rivalry can be a powerful motivating force, and Marie works it hard, fully earning her equal billing.
The pair begin and end the show together, but mostly they perform apart, in alternating sets. The hit duets are saved for the end, and while they go down a treat with the fans, you can’t help but notice a certain distance between the older brother and the younger sister. Their voices fuse perfectly, but their eyes almost never meet. There’s scripted banter, but little warmth in the exchanges, leaving you wondering whether their relationship is more of a professional than a familial one these days. But it’s a minor quibble, at the end of a hugely entertaining evening that sends every single fan home smiling.
Donny & Marie: It Takes Two, Vegas Love, Get The Party Started, Dancing In The Street, Knock On Wood, I Want To Take You Higher
Marie: Paper Roses, Walk This Way, These Boots Are Made For Walking, Crazy, Like A Hurricane/Country Medley, Pie Jesu
Donny: Crazy Horses, Puppy Love, Yo Yo, Love Me For A Reason (duet with Jay), I Just Want To Celebrate, Dynamite, Celebration
Broadway sequence: Give My Regards To Broadway (Donny), I Whistle A Happy Tune, Getting To Know You (Marie), Beauty And The Beast (Donny), The Sound Of Music, Climb Every Mountain (Marie), Close Every Door (Donny), For Good (Donny & Marie)
Rock This Town (Donny & Marie), The Twelfth Of Never (Donny), Nessun Dorma, All That Jazz, Cabaret, But The World Goes ‘Round (Marie), Soldier of Love (Donny)
Donny & Marie: A Little Bit Country (A Little Bit Rock & Roll), I’m Leaving It All Up To You, Make The World Go Away, Deep Purple, Morning Side Of The Mountain, A Beautiful Life, Remember When, It Takes Two (reprise), May Tomorrow Be A Perfect Day