LIVE REVIEW: Joe McElderry, Symphony Hall (Birmingham), 09.11.11

Now I have to admit that the last I heard of Joe McElderry was when he lost out on the Christmas chart battle back in 2009. Not long after I moved to Australia and missed out on the next chapter. While I had not been a McElderry champion (I concede that I was rooting for the second from last placing Rikki Loney, before hedging my bets with the equally unpopular Rachel Adedeji), I thought him a worthy winner and secretly hoped he could break the curse of the male X Factor winner. However, through the wires I heard that his debut single “Ambitions” was only a mild hit and that he was swiftly dropped post debut album “Wide Awake” – despite it featuring a cover of one of my personal favourite tracks – Nerina Pallot’s “Real Late Starter”. The curse had struck once again and McElderry was bound for the bargain bin.

Thus I was more than little surprised when a couple of weeks ago I spotted a poster of McElderry which detailed his tour. Upon mentioning this to a couple of friends, their disdain was obvious. “McElderry should be doing musicals” the one noted, before the other snidely remarked, “he is the modern-day Cliff Richard – clean-cut, inoffensive.” Their instant rebuttal fuelled my curiosity and that evening I googled McElderry and found out a little bit more about the in-between time – but it was his mind-blowing rendition of “Nessum Dorma” on Popstar To Operastar that cemented in my mind that I needed to attend to satisfy my morbid curiosity. I knew in that moment it would be either total car crash or beyond brilliant.

Luckily it was the latter. While my friends are possibly right that McElderry veers towards the safer side of things, I personally see little wrong with that. His boy next door charm clearly has its appeal as the Symphony Hall is bursting at the seams with an all-ages audience. While the dazzling Roxanne Emery makes more of a lasting impression than X Factor rejects The Reason 4, neither act is able to touch the evening’s headline act. With a million dollar smile, McElderry promises to take the audience through his journey – the highs and the lows – from the X Factor through to the current day.

As he makes his way through a selection of tracks from his debut album “Wide Awake” it becomes clear that suffered for his status rather than his lack of ability. Though he may not be a born dancer, his vocal aptitude is immense. Every word he breathes resonates through the crowd and is met with roared appreciation. While early highlights include the aforementioned “Real Late Starter” and the surprisingly strong “Ambitions”, it is his cover of Savage Garden’s “Affirmation” that really hits home for me.

Having explored his post X Factor failure with enthusiasm, McElderry is clearly thankful for the show that brought him to the public’s attention. While “Don’t Stop Believing” goes down a treat with the audience, a rendition of “Open Arms” hits home his forte. McElderry is a singer who connects with emotional strength. Mouths drop in amazement as McElderry wows with spine tingling beauty.

Before long we are into ‘Classic’ terrain – an announcement that is met with unanimous applause. In my absence, McElderry has gone from flopstar to superstar in an unexpected manner. After a brief introduction, in which he humbly expresses his own surprise at his good fortune, McElderry launches into material from his latest release with a notable increase in confidence and presence.

Post an emotional rendition of the diving “Dance With My Father”, the evening builds through chill blain inducing renditions of “Canto Della Terra” and “Time To Say Goodbye” to an almost orgasm-inducing delivery of “Nessum Dorma”. Oozing confidence and with impressive presence, McElderry revels in his reaction as he is met by a standing ovation.

With debut hit “The Climb” as yet unperformed, the wait for the inevitable encore is  met with riotous chants. Before long McElderry is back with an acoustic working of Michael Buble’s “Home” and the obvious “The Climb”. As McElderry is joined by his adoring audience in the refrain, “Always gonna be a uphill battle, sometimes I’m gonna have to lose. Ain’t about how fast I get there.
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side – It’s the climb”, it suddenly hits me just how poignant a prediction his debut hit had been.

McElderry is a rare talent. He is not a reality television discovery. He is much more than that. The show upon which he made his name may have led to his initial downfall, but the determined star has been able to find his feet and if tonight is any indication, this star has remained grounded and is laying strong foundations.

While my friend may have meant malice with their Cliff Richard comparative – I now see it in a different light. Cliff Richard has weathered the seasons and had consistent success. McElderry may be made from the same mould. A versatile performer with a dedicated following. Time alone will tell where his journey will take him next, but during this evening he added another fan to his camp and I have added his CDs my birthday wish list for this weekend (friends take note..).

Reviewer: Jeremy Williams
Rating: 5/5 

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2 Comments

  1. That is a very lovely review, its great to read about your journey to discover Joe again. Personally I have always believed in Joe and his incredible voice, what he can do with THAT is simply amazing. He touches everyone no matter what age or gender.
    Great to see that finally he is getting the recognition he deserves. Honestly…Joe has the best voice in the business at the moment. Very rare talent indeed, I could not agree more. Thank you!
    Taco

    • Thank you so much for this lovely, positive review. Hundreds of fans already know what an amazing talent joe McElderry is. Joe has had bad press in the past for some unknown reason but now invites by the Queen, fantastic performances, wonderful tour reviews and the most amazing voice and personality we all know that Joe mcElderry is well on his way to super stardom.


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