Review: Olly Murs at Genting Arena, Birmingham

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Olly Murs is often heralded for his performance value and cheeky-chappy persona and, to a great extent, this was showed off during his set at Birmingham’s Genting Arena on the 24th March, where he displayed strong vocals and provided several very entertaining and energetic numbers. The problem, however, was that Murs did not know when his personality became too much: OTT simply does not exist in his dictionary as he constantly referred to how women ‘love’ him, remarked as to how he was feeling ‘frisky’ and allowed audience members to slap his ass while saying “and why would you want to see my arse? Not like it’s rear of the year 2015”. To the hordes of 30-something hormonal women on a night away from their husbands, it was brilliant. To others, however, it was more like the moment your parents start talking about sex and you just want to be swallowed up by the sofa.

The night started off a little anti-climactically as the opening act, Capital FM DJs, failed to really get the party starting standing behind a desk for half an hour. True to form, though, the audience perked up when Murs arrived. His set began strong: his opening performances of 24 hits ‘You Don’t Know Love’ and ‘Grow Up’ were well-executed with a strong vocal and energetic dance routine. ‘Grow Up’, specifically, filled the arena with a sense of childhood fun and innocence and made for a really nice arena sing-along. This didn’t stop either: the crowd were very energetic and vocal throughout, specifically during hits such as ‘Dance with Me Tonight’, ‘Heart Skips A Beat’ and ‘Kiss Me’, as well as a cleverly constructed ten minutes of amalgamated hits ranging from the 70s up to Justin Timberlake’s ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’.

If Murs is to be congratulated for one thing specifically, it is his ability to get a crowd up and dancing and taking part in the show. I could not see a single person not singing and dancing along and this is testament to Murs’ abilities as a performer. In fact, the crowd were so energised that, at one point, Murs literally jumped in (much to the horror of his security team!). There was a clear connection between Murs and his fans and it made for an excellent atmosphere. The only flaw vocally was the remix of ‘Dear Darling’ which was a little disappointing and felt constructed to avoid the requirement for several high notes during the live show: the original would certainly have been preferred.

The problem, however, rested not in the vocal performances themselves, but in the production value and Murs’ own interludes. Surprisingly, there was little “production” to really talk off. There was a band behind Murs and the occasional use of graphics on the main screen and partial dance routines but it stopped there, though it is worth noting that the backing singers and band were excellent and held their ground, especially when taking the role of Demi Lovato during ‘Up’. Perhaps he was going for simplicity, but it didn’t really pay off as it just looked like effort was lacking. If you compare this to the excellent production value of Little Mix, or the cleverly constructed simplicity of Adele or Emeli Sandé, Murs certainly falls short, especially given that some of his dance numbers could have worked perfectly with a great production involving more dancers, fireworks etc. The other disappointing feature is that the set failed to hold any real conceptual progression: it appeared like a collection of songs in a random order rather than a cohesive narrative. Perhaps this has something to do with the mismatched nature of the 24 album itself, but (and not to over-do the comparison here), if it is compared to Little Mix’s “haunted” Black Magic concept during the Get Weird tour, then Murs fades inconspicuously in to the background.

I’m presuming the idea was to fall back on Murs’ character rather than gimmicks, but this did not pay off either. To begin with, Murs’ focus on “all the sexy ladies here tonight” was bearable, but an hour in the repetitive nature of his comments became over the top. To sum it up perfectly, the lady next to me said: “the amount he goes on about women tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was gay”. By the end, his comments became forced and embarrassing. This time round, Murs failed to balance his cheeky-chappy persona appropriately, and ended up becoming the embarrassing parent.

It is important not to over-stress the negatives here. On the whole, it was a great night out which was full of energy and excellent vocal performance. However, for a performer that receives as much acclaim as Murs does, the failures stood out sorely. Before we revel in the performance ability of Murs, he may wish to take a leaf out of the book of some of his competitors.

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Philosopher and Historian and major pop-fan. You can find me listening to most pop in the charts (Beyoncé and Sia are most certainly goddesses), as well as some modern jazz and classical and enjoing the occasional trip to the theatre. I'm also interested in the repurcussions of the representation of sex in modern-day media! And I might be a fan of the X Factor. Sorry, I can't help it...

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