A beginner’s guide to appearing in a live TV audience, as written by me.

I did something pretty exciting over the Bank Holiday last weekend, as the week before, I got wind of the fact that Olly Murs was pre-recording his appearance as a guest – interview only – on The Paul O’Grady Show (below, credit to his Facebook for the picture) for ITV that aired last Wednesday afternoon. Lots of people, particularly from having been on TV quite a bit with Olly and others in the past, have often asked me how I manage to do it. So I thought for those of you who are interested that I’d use this blog today as an opportunity to give you a handy little ‘how-to’ guide of getting into the audience of a TV show recording.

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So. Getting into the audience of a TV show. It must be really difficult, I hear you cry? Well, yes and no. As they more often than not tend to be free, tickets for the audience of a major league TV show are actually some of the cheapest entertainment outlets you can get hold of – even after travel’s factored into the equation.

You see, on a lot of primetime TV shows they’ll have researchers or external companies hired in to do the research – on the guests, on topics being covered etc – for that particular show to get an idea of what sort of ‘audience’ they’re aiming the show at at home. And their job also includes getting hold of an actual audience to appear at the recording of that show, if and when it’s required.

This usually tends to be done in one of two ways: either by the production company in-house, or through an agency. The BBC does most of its audience booking through its own Shows & Tours website, which includes its bigger name shows like Strictly Come Dancing or Mrs Brown’s Boys but also radio programmes as well, like Sorry I Haven’t a Clue for Radio 4.

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For shows on ITV and Channel 4, as they are obviously independent television companies that aren’t funded by the license fee, most of their audiences are obtained through the external agencies I mentioned above. I’ll go through the main ones below.

  • Applause Store – this is probably the best known of the audience ticketing agencies, some times, it has to be said, not for all the right reasons amongst those who know of them. Applause Store look after and are in charge of the audiences for a lot of the big ITV shows, including The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, Celebrity Juice and also shows like Sky1’s sports panel quiz A League of Their Own hosted by James Corden and The Million Pound Drop hosted by Davina McCall for Channel 4.
  • Lost in TV – perhaps less well known, Lost in TV manage the audiences for some more mainstream shows – The Paul O’Grady Show being one of them, as I was at. They also do Surprise Surprise with Holly Willoughby and The Cube with Phillip Schofield, both for ITV, as well as the audiences for the BBC’s Children in Need and Sport Relief telethons.
  • SRO Audiences – SRO (short for ‘Standing Room Only’) look after the audiences of quite a lot of comedy based TV shows and daytime offerings. This includes Loose Women for ITV, Alan Carr: Chatty Man and 8 out of 10 Cats for Channel 4 and Pointless for BBC One.

I’ve provided the links above for all of them. What you can do is either go on to the website of the agency, find a show you’re interested in appearing in the audience of and apply for tickets either immediately or through ballot, or if the show’s not going to be on air for a while, you can sign up to the agency’s newsletter which will let you know when and where tickets will be available from. Most of them have Twitter feeds you can follow as well.

So I’ve got my tickets, sounds simple enough, I hear you say. Now here’s the caveat. Particularly for the more high demand shows like The X Factor the take up, as you can imagine, is absolutely enormous, particularly during the live shows in the autumn when guest stars come down to perform on the results shows when their fanbases (*cough*ONEDIRECTION*cough) will hound on them like rabid dogs. So these agencies and TV companies deliberately do what’s called ‘overbooking’. What that means is that they’ll supply more tickets for the audience than there is actual room for them in the studio.

So basically, and if you get tickets to the show you want then they will, as such, advise you of this in the terms and conditions, that means it’s a first come, best dressed scenario – the earlier you turn up before doors open, the more likely you are to get in. Which basically means you can do one of two things – either turn up from anywhere between three or four hours before the doors open – and if you do this, I’d advise in investing a good book or magazine, something to eat and a warm jacket to keep you occupied.

Or if that’s not an appealing idea, most of the agencies above have what’s called a priority scheme. You can either join this directly on their websites, or, on the unfortunate chance you don’t get in, they’ll automatically register you for forthcoming shows so you’ll get priority access above a normal admission for the next time you come down, so you’ll be guaranteed entry into the studio. Membership fees for priority schemes vary – for Lost in TV it’s about £2.99 a month, for Applause Store it’s about £50 a year, so make sure you do your research carefully. I’ve been through Lost in TV before for The Album Chart Show in 2011 for Channel 4, and as Olly was at that they sent along a ticket offer for me for that, even though it wasn’t priority, so that’s how I got in. I might consider a priority scheme in the future though.

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And what about filming locations? Well the most common ones tend to be based in London, such as the London Studios facilities on the South Bank (pictured above), where most of the big name shows tend to be filmed including The Paul O’Grady Show that I was at, as well as This Morning and Alan Carr: Chatty Man (we also filmed my segment in February 2012 for Olly’s ITV2 documentary Olly: Life on Murs at these studios. If you watch the episode I was in back, you can see the front of the studios quite clearly throughout). Other common ones used include Fountain Studios at Wembley, BBC Broadcasting House and Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, best known to pop music fans of the 90’s and 00’s as the studios used for filming TFI Friday with Chris Evans and the Saturday morning pop show CD:UK. Of course, there are other smaller studios used as well, so always check ahead to make sure you can travel there etc OK.

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So what about once you’re inside? Well, generally, as a rule you’ll have to turn your mobile phone off whilst filming’s happening A) for legal reasons and B) so it doesn’t interfere with any camera equipment etc. They also advise you to eat and use the loo beforehand as it can take anywhere up to three hours to record a show. You’ll also occasionally have to fill in a little disclaimer form that says you’re happy and agree for your likeness to be used in any of the aired footage prior to recording starting. And if it’s a studio based TV show like a chat show, they’ll usually have what’s called a compére to keep the crowd warmed up in between ad breaks and also the host and guests arriving. Our one for The Paul O’Grady Show was an energetic Northern guy, a comedian called Paddy who kept us laughing at all times.

Also, just very occasionally, as a thank you for appearing in the audience, the agency or researchers looking after the audience for that show may give you a little gift for you to go home with. I don’t know if this happens at all TV shows, but it did at our filming, as we were informed that it was National BBQ Week last week (I know. It seems like there’s a national week or day for EVERYTHING these days). So Lost in TV kindly sent us all home with a free disposable BBQ for us to use this summer.

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As you can see I was REALLY impressed with mine! (I’m just kidding, if anyone at Lost in TV is reading this. My mum loved it anyway.) And that’s it really. I hope this blog today has been of help to anyone who was interested in my little pursuits and that maybe it’s inspired you to apply to be in a TV audience at some point in the future. If you ever do go to one, please Tweet me as I’d love to hear success stories etc. And may I also just say a big thanks to all the Lost in TV staff who made my time at the studios on Monday such a great one. Now shush please, quiet in the studio. 3, 2, 1…and ACTION!

P.S. I met Olly again afterwards as well. And he still remembers me?! Absolute headtrip. Hello Olly if you are reading this, it was pleasure meeting you again dude!

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#AwesomeBoresome (Week ending 31/05/2015)

It’s nearly June. Can you believe that? Just time for me, however, to squeeze in my weekly round up of all the things I’ve been rating and slating in the week just gone – so here, for your reading pleasure viewers, it’s this week’s #AwesomeBoresome…

  • #AWESOME – Aston Merrygold being Back! Back! Back! and single handedly saving pop music

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With Oritsé and Marvin (with his dance production outfit LuvBug) both having broken into the charts with their solo careers in the last year, this week we finally heard the first fruits of labour from the former member of JLS that everyone – certainly their younger fans anyway – had been waiting for. Aston Merrygold has finally re-emerged from an 18 month break and is now no longer ‘the cute backflipping one’ and is now, instead, ‘the one most likely to be the biggest male solo popstar in the UK since Olly Murs’.

And on the basis of ‘Get Stupid’, his – pardon our French – f***ing brilliant debut solo single, he’s argued an extremely strong case for that to happen. Co-written with ex-Alishia’s Attic star Karen Poole (Kylie, Will Young, Sugababes) and Sonny J Mason (the criminally underrated ‘Can’t Stop Moving’ from the X Factor Talk Talk adverts), it’s a mischief making, funk laden and soulful slice of summery pop bubbling with energy that we think will be on course to bring forth the first solo number one of the former deep V-neck advocates.

‘Get Stupid’ is released on 17th July and Aston’s debut album ‘Show Stopper’ follows in October.

  • #AWESOME – Magnum’s luscious new dark side

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With summer just around the corner, the king of all ice creams Magnum has now launched it’s new ‘Pink vs Black’ range for this year following the (truly awesome) silver Marc de Campagne range they had to celebrate it’s 25th birthday last year.

We always thought that was going to be a tough act to follow, and whilst this was indeed proved right with the pink raspberry ripple flavour being too sickly sweet, we tried the dark one this week – Espresso flavour – and can confirm it is absolute heaven on a lolly stick.

  • #BORESOME – Coffee shop etiquette, or lack thereof

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Right, bit of an odd one this but hear me out. As a (often) solo punter in a coffee shop, is it just me that feels immensely annoyed having to contend with the snotty behaviour of groups of people with regards to seating arrangements? I feel solo punters are unfairly looked upon despite the fact that we are paying customers just the same as everyone else for choosing to sit where we like.

Such was the case when I had coffee out in Costa in Braintree a few weekends ago, and upon deciding to sit on the sofa area, was promptly given looks of disdain by a Cath Kidston clad so-called ‘middle class’ family for electing to sit there, and who then kept turning to their child passive aggressively going ‘Let’s let that man leave his seat first, Jacinta’. Yeah, too right you’re waiting you impatient git jobs.

  • #BORESOME – ‘Love Island’, the unnecessary return of

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Easily the most baffling return to ITV’s schedules this summer has been that of ‘Love Island’. Formerly known by its ‘celebrity’ (read: Abi Titmuss and Calum Best starring) counterpart from 10 years ago, its now been resurrected for ITV2 and starts next month.

Even with our beloved Flackers, Ms Caroline Flack hosting, and with supposed ‘normal’ people starring this time, you can almost bet it will be full of the sort of people who are just on it to be famous for absolutely sod all apart from a quick bonk on a paradise resort. Enough.

#CrazyStupidPlaylist: The UK at Eurovision

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Last weekend saw the 60th annual Eurovision Song Contest take place in Vienna, Austria – won this year by the, let’s be honest, Gods of the annual shindig, Sweden. 60 years is a lifetime in most institutions, but for a contest that has slipped way under most people’s estimations in recent years here in the UK, it’s historic. What started all the way back in 1954 as a polite, orchestral led sejourn between European countries has now escalated into a yearly full on live spectacle with dancing nuns, fireworks, crazy staging and, just once in a blue moon, has been the springboard to several artists’ world dominating careers – ABBA are the most famous example of all, having had their break after winning in 1974 with ‘Waterloo’.

One of the most constant – and dare I say – boring criticisms levied by the British public at Eurovision in the last 15 years has been that we don’t ‘need’ to do it, and that the BBC more often than not grudgingly do it so as not to disturb EU relations, and that it’s a bit of disposable ‘fun’. Only because, I would argue, we’ve sent such unrepresentative drivel in recent years – and that includes this year’s entry Electro Velvet, who were so mind numbingly awful I feel embarrassed that they represented us. So to this end, I have compiled a new #CrazyStupidPlaylist of what I feel are the UK’s best Eurovision entries from the last 60 years…

5. JESSICA GARLICK – ‘Come Back’ (2002)

Highest UK chart position: #13 / Finished joint 3rd

It seems to be de rigeur these days that every second year we send the latest rejected hopeful from either ‘The X Factor’ or ‘The Voice’ to represent ol’Blighty. Back in 2002, and with ‘Pop Idol’ fever gripping the nation though, it was a new concept altogether, as Jessica Garlick, one of that year’s finalists, took us to our highest place on the leaderboard since 1998 – and what was to be our highest placing for six years after with this beautiful, understated power ballad from the same team behind Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’.

4. PRECIOUS – ‘Say It Again’ (1999)

Highest UK chart position: #6 / Finished joint 12th

And speaking of Atomic Kitten, here’s future member Jenny Frost in her original girl group, formed by the management responsible for 90’s R&B pop babes Honeyz and Eternal. ‘Say It Again’ has dated as well as an R&B flavoured European pop record from the turn of the century can do, but we’ve always had a soft spot for this one, even if it was never gonna beat – surprise surprise – Sweden’s Charlotte Nilsson with her ABBA-esque offering at that year’s contest.

3. BUCKS FIZZ – ‘Making Your Mind Up’ (1981)

Highest UK chart position: #1 / Finished 1st

Aka the song responsible for naming the BBC’s haphazard renaming of the selection process post the whole ‘Jemini nul points’ saga of 2003. And also one of it’s best loved winners, all blippy bloppy early 80’s synths and swishing skirts. I won’t lie though – it’s largely on my playlist because of Miranda and Stevie’s reenactment of it.

2. KATRINA & THE WAVES – ‘Love Shine A Light’ (1997)

Highest UK chart position: #3 / Finished: 1st

Boring though it may be with each failed entry in recent years to be reminded by Sir Terry Wogan or Ken Bruce of ‘that glorious year in 1997 when Katrina won it for us’, they have a point nonetheless. Originally touted as a charity single for the Samaritans, the 80’s power pop outfit had their biggest hit of their career with this song and also saw it glide to a landslide victory with this rousing number.

1. GINA G – ‘Ooh, Aah…Just a Little Bit’ (1996)

Highest UK chart position: #1 / Finished: 8th

Ah. God bless Gina and those legs of hers. A little bit more indeed. I digress. A thumping, pumping 90’s Eurodance banger that was perhaps just too ahead of its time for the then still traditional looking Eurovision audience, ‘Ooh, Aah…’ was produced by Steve Rodway, alias founder of 90’s dance giants Motiv8 – also behind brilliant singles for the likes of Saint Etienne and Pet Shop Boys.

Not only is it to date the last Eurovision related chart topper in the UK, and also one of the few to smash the Billboard charts and be Grammy nominated, it also shares a very tenuous link in that one of the young keyboard technicians at Motiv8, Brian Higgins, was to eventually work quite closely with one of Gina’s backing dancers, well spoken blonde top knotted Miranda Cooper…

Click below to listen to my Spotify playlist with all my choices:

#AwesomeBoresome (Week ending 17/05/2015)

It’s Sunday, and thus time to tell you what I’ve been rating and ditching this week in what I like to call #AwesomeBoresome…let’s kick things off then…

  • #AWESOME – The Twitter account ‘Things on my Rabbit’

Victoria Beckham has been well known to call fans of her clothing line ‘fashion bunnies’ on her Twitter account for some time now. But this owner of a domesticated rabbit in San Antonio, no less, is taking things one step further with something which, as per ye great laws of animals on the internet, is one part ‘aww’ mixed with ten parts ‘MEGAlolz’.

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But wait! It gets better:

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Well done internet. Well done *applauds wildly*

  •  #AWESOME – a (sort of) new S Club 7 song

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The newly reunited S Clubbers are currently bouncing their way round the arenas of the UK and Ireland on their comeback tour – and are at London’s O2 Arena for a third sold out date tonight – and to celebrate, their 2003 greatest hits album has had a little re-release this week.

On it there’s all new artwork, new liner notes by Jeremy Mark – the band’s official biographer who wrote a lot of their magazines, fanzines etc back in the day in between his duties for the BBC’s tie-in magazine for Saturday morning favourite ‘Live & Kicking’ – and also a BRAND NEW FLIPPIN’ SONG. That’s right.

Well, we say brand new. In the context of having never been released anywhere else before, that is exactly what ‘Rain’ is. Originally recorded and mooted for inclusion on their final album, 2002’s ‘Seeing Double’, it received only a 30 second airing on their TV show and their fan base have volleyed hard for its release ever since. And now their persistence has paid off? All lush instrumentation and soaring lead vocals from Jo and Bradley, it’s like the great lost comeback single we may never get.

  • #BORESOME – Big Brother, the unwelcome return and annoyance of

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Urrgh. You’d have thought that since it finished up on Channel 4 five years ago that the insufferable yearly toil of plastic, cannot-believe-you-actually-exist fame hungry idiots locked up in a house in Elstree would be even easier to avoid now it was on Channel 5. That was until the series snored back into being this week and now my timeline is a living hell after 9pm most nights as people continue to Tweet about a show that’s both way past its sell by date and continues to congratulate people for being recognised for absolutely jack all. MAKE IT STOP!

  • #BORESOME: Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea, the awful new single by

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We’re still not quite sure what’s more awful TBH – Iggy ‘As A Leah’ Azalea’s travesty of a ‘collaboration’ with J.Lo last year on a ‘song’ that made Sir Mix-a-Lot look positively feminist by comparison, or on this, her latest offering with Britney. That said, as is often the case with Britney these days, when she very occasionally gets it really right – ‘Womanizer’, ‘I Wanna Go’ etc – it can be a very good thing. ‘Pretty Girls’ is not one of those instances and somehow you really wonder if she’s just better off sticking with the Vegas show of hers for the next 10 years if the music stays this bad.

‘The Railway Series’ at 70: still crossing the points to new generations

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The year is 1945. VE Day marks the end of World War II, actor Martin Shaw and singer songwriter legend Van Morrison are both born. And in May of that year, on exactly this week, the first in a new series of books for children called ‘The Railway Series’, charting the lives of a team of steam locomotives on a fictional island somewhere in the Irish Sea, written by a Hampshire based vicar to entertain his young son who had the measles, was published.

‘The Three Railway Engines’ (pictured above) was an instant success, but it wasn’t until a year later, when the second of the books arrived, that the series’ most famous character of all, Thomas the Tank Engine, would be introduced. His adventures, along with those of his friends – Gordon, Henry, James, Percy, Toby and Duck to name just several – entertained young British audiences for a total of 26 volumes by the Rev. W. Awdry until 1972, when the final book in the series ‘Tramway Engines’ was published – a significant point in British rail history as most railways began to become nationalized.

A decade later, whilst researching for a TV documentary about the history of British steam, a Southampton based TV executive, Britt Allcroft, remembered the books from her own childhood and set about enquiring with the Awdry estate into turning the much loved tales into a TV series. Two years later in 1984, the end result was broadcast, as ‘Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends’ debuted on Children’s ITV that autumn to rave reviews, and received an estimated audience of 6 million viewers a week along with a BAFTA nomination.

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A charming mix of live action animated models in the same bright, colourful, storybook world of the books crossed with the easy to make backdrops of an average model railway kit, plus a truly thrilling score composed by session musicians Mike O’Donnell and Junior Campbell along with narration by Beatles drummer and rock legend Ringo Starr, immediately placed the series into the hearts and minds of the nation for years to come.

I was born some 5 years after the original series first aired, but up until about the age of 7, Thomas and his friends held a special significance not just in part of my growing up but that of my family’s too. My sister and I recollected fondly this week about the Ladybird tie-in book from the series our late grandad bought as a present for her of the story ‘Percy Runs Away’, which was always her favourite if not for her reaction when he asked her what had happened when Percy had run away from a near collision with Gordon and was diverted into a siding with a bank of earth (‘He fell over, grandad!’).

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For me, it was being bought a VHS of stories from the show called ‘Thomas, Percy and the Coal’ which I watched on continuous, joyful loop and as a result, soon learnt how to operate the VCR all by myself with – which I’m sure must have driven my poor mum round the bend. Every birthday I had up until about the age of 7 I collected the little ERTL die cast models, and for Christmas, when I was 4 and my eldest sisters were both getting a new keyboard each, I got the best present the Thomas loving me could wish for when my dad bought me a clockwork set of Thomas with Annie and Clarabel and set up my very own little Island of Sodor. Even seeing the picture of it now makes me feel like an excited toddler all over again.

It’s not until recently that Thomas has factored back into my remit again, largely through now being an uncle and watching my nephew Fin get just as excited by watching it – the below is a picture I took of him last year, watching the very same episode that even now I can memorise off by heart from those repeated VHS watches I made some 20 years previously – ‘Thomas, Percy and the Coal’. He seems to prefer the newer, CGI animated version of the show which airs on Channel 5’s ‘Milkshake’ block of shows on weekday mornings more than the one I grew up on, but I can’t tell you what a thrill it is that he’s now into it and just as excited by it as I was.

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And that, really, is what’s made the appeal of Awdry’s stories – boosted largely by the TV series –  last for as long as they’ve been going. Thomas and his friends’ adventures remain one of the few wide appealing cultural artefacts that, even with the very nature of their existence from the golden age of steam rail travel, can transcend any fad or fashion that has come before or since, whether it was four year old me in 1993 or my 2 year old nephew now in 2015. So congratulations on 70 years to Thomas – and here’s hoping he steams on for another 70 and more.

#CrazyStupidGig – Olly Murs (@ollyofficial) – Never Been Better Tour (O2 Arena, London, 4th/7th May 2015)

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As has been mentioned before several times on this here blog, there are certain popstars or books or TV shows for which it is impossible for me to try and form any coherent stream of thought on other than that of a giddy, excitable fanboy, whilst showing all the love and loyalty of a particularly excitable Labrador puppy. Much like in fact, the man you see above. Olly Murs’ third arena tour in five years came to its end with a sold out, week long run at The O2 this week, and yours truly was there for two nights of it that were both as amazing as each other. Reasons of which we’ll attempt to go into as we progress.

It has been two very long years since we last saw Olly live – in the same place, in fact – and that was undoubtedly one of the best shows of his we’d seen at the O2 so the ‘Never Been Better Tour’, even on name alone had a lot to live up to. His main support act on the night, and throughout this tour has been the wonderfully talented Ella Eyre, a feisty London teen with big hair and an even bigger voice and personality, having already topped the charts as guest vocalist on the Rudimental hit ‘Waiting All Night’ and now launching her own solo career.

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She warmed up the crowd good and proper and unleashed a kind of raw, soulful pop feel evocative of early Sugababes (i.e. before the headache inducing personnel changes) on tracks like ‘Comeback’, ‘Dig a Little Deeper’ and forthcoming single ‘Together’. Much like Loveable Rogues on the last tour, she seemed born ready for a tour all of her own, which was unfortunately more than could be said for London’s special guests Bright Sparks – a male/female duo whose servicable indie pop of ‘Sugar’ and a sort-of-OK cover of Taio Cruz’s Dynamite weren’t bad but were delivered with a twee and rather annoying enthusiasm that called to mind both X Factor brother/sister duo Same Difference and Chris and Alison, the overly affectionate, TMI-o’clock friends of Gary Preston from ‘Miranda’.

A teasing blast of Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ seconds before Olly came on stage led swiftly into a heart pounding intro, a frenzied series of shots on a triangular LED screen of him in a ‘Mad Men’ type suit looking in fighting spirit to the tune of the ‘Pulp Fiction’ theme, as he then leapt up out of nowhere (i.e. the end of the stage) to ask the excited mass, ‘London…DID YOU MISS ME?’

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And thus the show began with the Prince-esque opening gambit from his current album, all cheeky sidewinks, funky sax breaks and booty shaking dance moves to put Justin Timberlake to shame. Zips through the old and new in the set – including ‘Why Do I Love You?’ from the current album, as well as ‘Right Place Right Time’ and ‘Hand on Heart’ from the last one set up the undisputable feel good atmosphere of his show nicely.

Possibly in light of some incredibly snotty reviews that both The Telegraph and The Times gave of the tour that weekend just gone, the album’s title track began the second section of the show after a quick costume change, and – quite literally with the impressive fire columns – saw Olly come out all guns blazing in his anthem that acted as a literal ‘f-you’ to his critics and detractors, I could really feel the passion and strength coming through in his vocals and energy on that number.

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Current single ‘Seasons’ saw Olly engage the crowd in some hysterical call response interaction with that song’s ‘Oooh, oooh’ hookline (kinda one of those things you had to be there to fully appreciate its brilliance, but you will once the DVD of this show is out), before he slowed down the tempo for the first time that evening (but not before engaging in a bit of friendly banter with the audience regarding setlist decisions – ‘I’ll come round to your house tonight ladies, and me and Mr Grey will sort you out’), leading nicely into a brilliant, stripped back piano medley of his early hits ‘Please Don’t Let Me Go’, ‘Thinking of Me’ and ‘Busy’.

One of the key aspects of Olly’s live show has always been his 10 piece band, a dynamic, lively bunch who really bounce off his energy and enthusiasm to deliver the best show possible. Only Donavan Hepburn (now on permanent loan to Gary Barlow and Take That) and Marco Bernardis of his brass section from the last two tours were otherwise indisposed, but old favourites such as his original two B/V’s John Allen and Darren Ellison – most commonly referred to among #MursArmy as John and Darren – and his lead MD Sean Barry were joined by two new female B/V’s Katie and Louise and a new drummer who, Olly confessed, made all other names obselete. Yep, even those of the crowd when he asked if they had a cool name. Dexter Ricardo Hercules anyone?

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Another quick break in the show before the third section saw a short film piece where Olly talked about how he’d become addicted to watching tributes to him that his fans had been uploading on YouTube whilst he’d been away on his 8 month break recording the ‘Never Been Better’ album last year. It ranged from the hilariously bizarre (a Portuguese guy singing a ‘Never Mind the Buzzcocks Intros round’ quality version of ‘Troublemaker’) through to the supercute – namely his little nephew, 3 year old Louie, singing ‘Heart Skips a Beat’ with unabandoned glee before declaring ‘Love you Uncle Olly’ to camera. Cue an entire arena going ‘Awww’.

This of course, then led into ‘Heart Skips a Beat’ itself, which finally saw the non standing sides of the arena get up and party. It was also the third section (on both dates) which saw Olly’s support act Ella Eyre return to the stage, this time, for a folksy, more upbeat version of this current album’s biggest hit ‘Up’, which she took the Demi Lovato parts on and, to put it quite simply, slayed. Quite why a studio version featuring Ella’s vocals hasn’t been produced yet is anyone’s guess.

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A whizz over to the B-stage via a suspended bridge was then made via ‘Dance with Me Tonight’ which again, had everybody on their feet. It’s fair to say that this is now a career song for Olly because everyone, no matter what age or gender they were, was up singing and dancing along to every word of that song. Once on the B-stage, he delivered beautiful renditions of his Paul Weller collaboration ‘Let Me In’ and then an emotional, stripped back version of ‘Dear Darlin’ accompanied by phone lights swaying aloft from all 15,000 seats.

The latter was a particularly poignant moment of the show, as in his pre-song speech to the crowd, he opened up about how it had gained a new level of meaning for him with his close friend’s loss of their mum to a battle with cancer (it had been played at her funeral) and the recent loss of his own nan some seven weeks prior to the tour starting. Again, it was sung from the soul as he fought back the tears, and everyone was really rooting for him on that number. The atmosphere wasn’t sombre for too long though.

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Quite literally strutting, shaking and shuffling back to the main stage – a sure sign that his intense training regime for this tour had given him more energy and thus more stamina with his moves than ever before – the party atmosphere went off as a funked up medley of ‘Le Freak’, ‘Good Times’ and ‘Uptown Funk’ came next and it really DID feel like Saturday night. It was also on the second show  we saw that his mentor and idol, Robbie Williams, quite literally spring up from nowhere to join him for a cheeky blast of ‘Troublemaker’.

Not that it’s a new criticism levied at him by his detractors, but with the news that Olly is returning to ‘The X Factor’ this year as its co-host alongside his TV wife Caroline Flack, much has been made of whether or not he can balance two careers in the world of entertainment, as if he’s somehow not allowed to do that. After returning for his encore, Olly immediately shot such disputes down. ‘The music will never stop. There’s gonna be a new album at the end of this year, and more tours coming, and I appreciate each and every one of your support here tonight London and I can’t wait to be on your TV screens every Saturday and Sunday, you are the best fans – BEST!’

And as he bowed out with a confetti strewn finale of ‘Wrapped Up’, it confirmed one thing about Olly that we’ve known to be true ever since the beginning – as a man of this many trades, and even with his new job on his old stamping ground where it all began for this Essex geez done good, this won’t be the last time he packs out a tour of this size. Olly is the uncomplicated, feel good man of the people in pop, knows his audience, knows his strengths, and knows exactly what he’s doing. And as for this tour? Absolutely, 100% the best he’s delivered to date.

RATING: 5/5

#AwesomeBoresome (Week ending 10/05/2015)

And a hearty good afternoon to you all! Once again I have been somewhat sporadic as a…sporadic thing. That’s largely because I’ve had a week off this week – more on which to a certain extent in my next blog which (spoiler alert) is a review of a tour – and numerous other shiz has also been g’warning on.

And as it is Sunday, it is time, as always on this here blog, for this week’s look at what I’ve been digging like newly ripe potatoes and what I’ve been binning like gone off milk. Yes, it’s time once again, for #AwesomeBoresome…

  • #AWESOME – Carrie Hope Fletcher’s book ‘All I Know Now’

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Proving that Tom and Giovanna are not the only talented ones in the Fletcher clan, I’ve been reading his little sister Carrie’s debut book this last week and a bit, following on from the success of her YouTube vlogs titled ‘ItsWayPastMyBedtime’. It’s already topped the bestseller lists and having got through three quarters of it (I’m more of a slow reader these days) it’s not hard to see why.

If there’s any teen readers of this blog, or anyone that perhaps still feels like a teen, or maybe even parents reading this with a difficult teenage son/daughter, I’d heartily advise you to go track down ‘All I Know Now’.

Much like a younger, perhaps slightly less clumsy teenage sister of Miranda Hart’s ‘Is It Just Me?’ book, it offers indispensible advice to those awkward moments in life that don’t come with a manual whilst being told with a lot of warmth, wit and surprising pathos.

  • #AWESOME – your new favourite band and mine, Louis York

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UK pop lovers of a certain age may vaguely recollect 10 years ago, how Niara Scarlett and Giselle Sommerville – two of the principle writers at the Kent based hitmakers Xenomania (who were behind all 21 of Girls Aloud’s consecutive UK top 10 hits as well as material for Sugababes, Kylie and Franz Ferdinand) – launched their own vanity project Mania, releasing the criminally underrated chart topper that never was ‘Looking for a Place’. Whilst short lived, and perhaps aimed at a very different market to that of Cheryl, Nadine and co, 10 years later history is about to repeat itself.

Claude Kelly is the New York songwriting don who’s worked on material with or for Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Christina Aguilera, but in most recent years is the man who has helped turn Olly Murs into UK pop’s best loved male solo star. Three of their collaborations – ‘Please Don’t Let Me Go’, ‘Dance with Me Tonight’ and ‘Troublemaker’ – have all been UK number ones and he has continued to be a part of every album Olly has released since then.

Now with one of his American writing team, Chuck Harmony (who themselves worked on ‘Loud and Clear’ and ‘Head to Toe’ from Olly’s third album ‘Right Place Right Time’) they have formed a new duo called Louis York and their first single, ‘Clair Huxtable’, a sort of anti-promiscuity anthem with a nagging hookline making a passing reference to the strong, matriarchal figurehead of cult sitcom ‘The Cosby Show’ is already gaining a steady following in the States – and it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if that crosses over to the UK by the end of this year.

Calling to mind the smooth, raw soul vibes of Musiq Soulchild with some of the same honest, melodic sensibilities that makes Claude’s work with Olly some of the best in mainstream pop, ‘Clair Huxtable’ is a record you’ll be hard pushed to get out of your head once you’ve heard it.

  • #BORESOME – Hayfever, the start of the season of

I have suffered with hayfever ever since I was a kid. Fortunately, as time’s gone on, I’ve become a bit more adept at learning to cope with it. In my first job about five years ago, my boss at the time was a qualified practitioner of herbal medicine, and recommended I eat local honey purchased from a health food shop during February to counteract the onslaught of pollen that following summer.

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Even with five years of slightly less dramatic obtaining of the classic symptoms though, this year in particular seems to have been a monumental ballache for me where congested noses, earache and even a sore throat has been concerned, as if it’s developed new, Dalek like powers to levitate. Which means that, pretty though it may look to some, I cannot wait for a few weeks from now when the rapeseed fields surrounding where I live no longer look anything like the above.

  • #BORESOME – Jason Derulo

In a shockingly bad and brief moment of madness whilst I was in my first year at uni in 2010, I purchased the debut album by one Jason Derulo, largely on account of his first single ‘Whatcha Say’, a great single which married turn of the decade synth led R&B with the chorus hook from Imogen Heap’s ‘Hide and Seek’. Much as with when I mistakenly bought Toploader’s ‘Onka’s Big Moka’ c. 2001 (it was in the Woolworths sale, and was on account of THAT cover of ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’. Don’t judge me, please), the rest of the album aside from the single was a complete damp squib.

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Which begs the question as to why he’s still been allowed to sustain a career on sub standard Usher cast offs like his current single ‘Want to Want Me’, and an absolutely dire live setup that consists of wheezing his way through the set, attempting some ill executed break dancing before ripping off his vest? There’s thousands of acts doing mainstream R&B music justice these days. For all his pecs and teeth, Jason quite simply isn’t one of them.