#CrazyStupidGig: Olly Murs – Summer Tour (Singleton Park, Swansea, 12th August 2017)

I’m pretty sure it was Simon Amstell and Miquita Oliver, hosts of the true leading light of smart, funny 00s pop telly, Channel 4’s Popworld, who openly breached the subject in one episode c. 2004/5 that they had McFly on the show that week, despite the fact they were on the week before. And were on again the following week. Their reasoning? ‘Yeah, we know what you’re thinking. But we get good stuff from them. So don’t judge us.’

This theory applies to the same extent with this here blog and a certain Mr Olly Murs. For anyone keeping count, this is the second week in a row he’s had a post on this blog – true, last week’s one was shared with Kungs – and this is his tenth appearance overall since we launched this blog three years ago this week (Happy Blogaversary to us, etc). 

And regular readers will also know that not only does he regularly provide this blog with ‘da clicks’, as the youth say, but that we can also usually not form any stream of coherent logic when it comes to Olly other than ‘OH YAS HE IS THE BEST SO DON’T EVEN TRY TO TEST’, such is our dedicated loyalty to him and all that jazz. It’s a win win all round, so in the words of Amstell and Oliver, ‘don’t judge us’.

Now here’s the thing. Mursy boy has been on one hugely successful tour already this year in support of his fourth UK number one album – and our Album of 2016 in our End of Year Prizes – ’24 HRS’. That was his fourth arena tour back in March, the Bournemouth International Centre date of which we attended. But we never got round to reviewing that, awesome a show though it was. But his current open air summer tour – of which he has two more weeks left before he takes a well earned break – is essentially that same arena tour but A) outdoors and B) with bells, whistles and hell, even the kitchen sink on. We shall explain forthwith.

After the last arena tour in 2015, we made a conscious decision to actually, y’know, make the touring and fanboying an actual experience, and see him in places outside of London and Essex. Hence why we saw him in Cork last year, and Bournemouth this year, and why we didn’t go to the earlier summer show of his in June at Colchester Football Stadium. Instead, we joined some very good friends of ours 200 miles away in sunny Swansea, Wales, at the historic Singleton Park.

It’s been a while since Olly last did summer shows in support of an album – four years ago in fact (we saw him in Peterborough that time, along with Diana Vickers and Ed Drewett). But there’s something about it being summer, outdoors and all that jazz that adds a special air to an already quite amazing live experience – carnival-esque, if you will. But before the star attraction must always come the lesser floats, the ‘Cub Scouts’ of the entertainment world.

So first up on stage were a local breakfast DJ team from a station called 96.4 The Wave. It was a fairly passable ‘MAKE SOME NOISE SWANSEA’ affair, with an hour of ‘C’mon on down ladies, its wine o’clock’ 80s and dance hits, with an odd bit of recent EDM/Tropical house bobbins thrown in here and there. And all made slightly unintentionally amusing by the fact that as the female DJ got the crowd to do the ‘Olly Olly Olly’ chant, the man himself was visible but a few feet away from where me and my friends were stood (albeit backstage).

Then following this was not Louisa Johnson, owing to a throat infection, but instead a two piece ‘guys with guitars and a session drummer’ outfit from nearby Blackwood, called Into the Ark, who were apparently on the revamped ITV series of The Voice this year. To say that they sounded like one interminably long ‘jam session’ of the worst kind is putting it mildly. Still, they weren’t caterwauling all over ‘Unpredictable’, so small mercies etc.

And then, after half an hour’s wait – Murs time! The ’24 HRS’ countdown clock intro from the arena tour was all still in place, as he blistered into an opening salvo of ‘You Don’t Know Love’, ‘Wrapped Up’ and – perhaps more amazingly – his single that more or less never was and the still rather amazing ‘Stevie Knows’ – mashed up quite appropriately with Mr Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ that he auditioned with on The X Factor all those years ago.

It’s safe to say by this point he had all 8,500 people in attendance eating out the palm of his hand. ‘It’s Saturday night Swansea!’ Murs hollered. ‘Are you going to sing? Are you going to dance? Are you going to get naked?’ The answer was a progressively louder whoop and cheer with each new question.

Our favourite cut from the new album ‘Back Around’ got mixed with Tina Turner’s ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’ to amazing effect, as did ‘Heart Skips a Beat’ receiving a 90s banger makeover, as it was mashed up with Gala’s dance classic ‘Freed from Desire’. But he also found time to slow things down, as old favourite ‘I Need You Now’ from his second album got an airing as he invited ‘all the single people in here tonight to put their hands up – even if you’ve come on your own and your partner’s at home, just bring me back with you!’

Another of our favourite tracks that was missed off the earlier arena tour set got an airing, as ‘Love You More’ (again, not the JLS song of the same name) was played, with Olly sounding all remorseful and heartbroken and just generally superb. He also touchingly found time to pay thanks to the emergency services and stewards at the event, and the importance of their job in light of the horrific events at Manchester Arena earlier in the summer.

This led into what was by far one of the emotional points of the night for us, as he invited everyone to sing along and think of those they’d lost whilst he sang the evergreen ‘Dear Darlin’ (during which he pointed to us and gave us a thumbs up). It was a special moment because of that, but also because it made me think of my dear auntie in Australia, who sadly passed away in June after a long battle with cancer.

The atmosphere didn’t remain too emotional for long though, as Olly instructed everyone to put their phones away and ‘just go mental for 10 minutes’ whilst he and his band did a mashup of old skool floorfillers, taking in the likes of KC and the Sunshine Band’s ‘That’s the Way I Like It’, Luther Vandross’ ‘Never Too Much’ and Ini Kamoze’s ‘Here Comes the Hotstepper’, rounding off with a spirited cover of the song he was mistaken for releasing last year and which he absolutely smashed – namely Justin Timberlake’s ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’. It was the kind of thing that had to be heard and seen to appreciate how awesome it was.

Resolutely an entertainer throughout, the penultimate three songs of his set – ‘Troublemaker’, ‘Dance with Me Tonight’, and an especially saucy rendition of ‘Kiss Me’ (where, to the delight of all female contigency present, his shirt came off to a snatch of ‘The Full Monty’ tune. Suffice to say from all his tyre lifting antics on Instagram that the dude has got ripped), upped the tune factor – Bam, Wham, Slam!

But he then rounded off with a touching tribute to the fans who’ve got him to the success he has had and who have kept him there, eight years on from where it all began – leading fittingly into the closing number of ‘Years and Years’: ‘It was X Factor 2009, Swansea, where we met!’ And with that, one of the best shows of his I’ve ever seen came to its spectacular finale.

There’s a reason why Olly is continually referred to as the nicest and hardest working man in pop – and not just from these quarters. This show – and the Bournemouth one we saw in March – are proof that eight years on, he still has drive, determination, likeability and the hit factor in spades. And I’ve a sneaking suspicion that he’ll be delivering the hits and shows for many more years to come – and I’ll continue to be at as many of them as possible.

RATING: 5/5

Olly Murs’ summer tour continues this Friday, 18th August at Newmarket Racecourse, and concludes with his headlining slot at Victorious Festival in Portsmouth on 27th August. Twitter: @ollyofficial

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#CrazyStupidAlbum: Olly Murs (@ollyofficial) – “24 HRS”

Firstly, a hearty welcome back one and all! I’ve missed you all. I may or may not divulge in another forthcoming blog why there has been a silence of nigh on three months since my last post – real life mostly to place the blame on there. Secondly, Olly Murs is back (I know so, having met him again at his album signing in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush tonight – picture below. True gent as always). And with just seven weeks left of 2016, he has just released what may very well be the best pop album of the year.

It says a lot that of the classes of 2008 – 12 of “The X Factor” – read as the show’s peak years – only he, Little Mix and (a newly resurgent) James Arthur are still standing and making music. This, his fifth album in a thus far 7 year career also says a lot. The follow up to 2014’s chart topping “Never Been Better” thus already has a lot going for it.

It’s also a marked change in direction for the patron saint of cheeky chappy. Much has happened between now and his last album – some of which have been covered on here. We first got the hint last year that things were moving in a more mature direction music wise, when he released the brilliant “Kiss Me” as a new track from a repacked version of “Never Been Better”, a catchy but funky, slightly more moody dancefloor number which sounded fresh out of the late 80s and onto the 21st century airwaves.

Last year also saw him part ways with his long term girlfriend of three years, an experience which he has channelled into the lyrics and to the overall vibe of “24 HRS”. The results thus make for some of the most bold and adventurous sounds Murs has committed to record thus far.

Lead single and summer smash “You Don’t Know Love“, with its soaring chorus and electro tinged backing, sets up the tone of the album, beginning as it does right at the crux of a break up, which can be a painful experience however amicable it may be, but which vocally, Olly conveys perfectly. This theme carries on into “Years & Years”, a trip-hop laden demi-ballad wistfully mourning the passing of good times with a former flame.

Acoustic based jam “Grow Up“, the album’s current single, explores the more scathing side of a breakup as well, whilst maintaining the roguish charm of his earlier hits such as on the chorus line: “You’re so vain that I already know / That when you hear this on the radio / You’re gonna turn it up, turn it up, turn it up / Cause it’s all about you”. “Love You More” (not a JLS cover, sadly) and the oddly hypnotic title track with its Aqualung style sound also cover this theme further. Slightly sarcastic bitterness set to icy cold synths suits him down to a tee. Who’d thunk it?

Anyone fearing the album is missing his all important cheek though, need not worry, as there’s plenty of that abound – this time, taking on a racier, sexier direction. “Private”, his collaboration with wonderfully talented singer songwriter MNEK, is a straight up banger about keeping PDAs behind closed doors, whilst “Read My Mind” and “Unpredictable” glide charmingly and effortlessly along on a cool R&B vibe – both could be future singles.

For me, “Back Around” is one of the big standouts. It strikes a fine balance between the unique, uplifting sound that has got Olly to where he is now, but looks forward with this new sound of his as well, combining acoustic guitar with sharp dancefloor hooks in a manner many have attempted in recent months but few have convincingly pulled off. He is among that few.

With a career that has continued to defy expectations, and some of his strongest vocal and writing turns to date, “24 HRS” is a smart, honest but thoroughly enjoyable album. And there’s much to suggest here that Olly is onto potentially the biggest success of his career to date with this release. All the more praise to him for it!

5/5

STREAM THESE: “Back Around”, “Years & Years”, “Private”

“24 HRS” is out today via RCA/Sony. Olly is back on the road for a new arena tour in the UK and Ireland next March – tickets and dates available at www.ollymurs.com/live.