Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pop Gig Blow-Out: Kelly, J-Lo, Marina and Cheryl Live Reviews

Being a fan of pop music means that sometimes you probably don't go to lots and lots of live gigs, especially if your biggest faves are the kinds who play to fairly big audiences. Thanks to some good luck, good mates and fortunate timing I managed to see a clutch of shows in the last month and decided to give each of them a mention here. I started with Cheryl's O2 show, then Kelly Clarkson the week after in the same venue, followed by Marina and the Diamonds in the Olympia before finishing with the Jennifer Lopez show in the O2 (I was in the O2 alot basically which is actually the perfect venue for a big pop show). Below is your handy guide to each show, the highlights and lowlights.

CHERYL COLE - O2 Dublin - 4/10/12

From Girls Aloud to solo-popstar/massive celeb status in many ways it makes total sense that Cheryl Cole is now touring. But for all the glitzy, enjoyable fun of her arena show it also highlights just how she’s never quite hit her stride as a solo performer. There are plenty of slick, dance-driven moments during the A Million Lights tour but there are too many moments where the whole thing feels a bit rushed and a ballad too many threatens to derail things altogether. It’s still a fun show overall, Cole is charismatic and likeable especially when nailing those trademark moves but it's not quite the flawless romp you'd love for her to do. An encore of Fight For This Love ramps up the spectacle in a way lacking at other parts of the show and reminds you that with a few bigger hits and a bit more time she could really compete with Rihanna et al.

Cheryl is back on tour with Girls Aloud later next year, details here 

KELLY CLARKSON - O2 Dublin - 10/10/12

Between that near-perfect pop voice and her genuine air, it’s hard not to fall a little bit in love with Kelly Clarkson by the end of her Dublin show. A non-stop ride through all of her best tracks and the strongest album cuts from her recent gem Stronger mean that this is a concert that never really lets up. It’s not a big, dance-driven spectacle but Clarkson and a tight backing band whip up so much pop magic that you wouldn’t even notice. Highlights include a stunning cover of Nothing Compares 2 U that brings awed silence to the arena, a jaunt into the crowd for the underrated Already Gone and the debut live airing of new single Catch My Breath. Best is an exhilarating encore that lines up some of Clarkson’s best songs in quick succession in a final charm offensives that leaves more than a few hearts broken when she leaves.

Kelly's album Greatest Hits : Chapter One is out mid-November

MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS - The Olympia Theatre, Dublin - 17/10/12

Marina and The Diamonds has turned her camp-quirky-art-pop stylings into a heady mix of chart-fodder and artistic expression on current album Electra Heart. So the Dublin stop of her Lonely Hearts Club Tour has a rabid audience swooning to songs from both releases. Despite the slight change in tone between her first and second album her knack for writing sharp, brassy songs layered with wit means that nothing falls flat and her wink-wink take on female archetypes breathes life into your standard pop show. A striking beauty with an un-earthly voice and a down-to-earth presence at odds with her beaming star-power Marina held The Olympia in her thrall with just a bat of an eyelid and rightly so. 

Marina returns to The Olympia November 20th.

JENNIFER LOPEZ - The O2 Dublin - 19/10/12

Whether she’s from the block or fresh off the American Idol judging panel Jennifer Lopez still commands plenty of attention and although this is her first ever world tour you can’t help but be impressed by just how good the J-Lo live experience is. Firstly, her voice is a real surprise. It’s not big and she’s not hitting those Mariah notes but the voice you know from all those hits sounds just as good when she’s clearly singing live and even when she does an acoustic number or two (I know. I know). Better is her dancing which is completely perfect, recreating her iconic music video moves with ease. She also has a charismatic, A-list glow that is easy to be dazzled by and has a rabid audience on their feet throughout (no mean feat at a pop gig with tiered seating). By the time J-Lo has run through basically every one of her hit songs (although why Play was omitted I’ll never know) you’re left with no doubt as to Lopez chops as a performer and to why she didn’t do this world tour sooner. Stunning stuff.

JLo's Greatest Hits album Dance Again: The Hits is out now

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