THE BIG REUNION BOY BAND TOUR 2014 AT THE LG ARENA, BIRMINGHAM
Tour Dates: Until Monday 27 October 2014
Performance Reviewed: Tuesday 21 October
Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
“Do you all remember ‘Smash Hits’?”
“…How about CD:UK? Top of the Pops?”
If my inner teenage self hadn’t already erupted to the fore at this early stage of The Big Reunion Boyband Tour, these pitch-perfect 90’s callbacks certainly did the trick.
Catapulting off of the surprise success of the ITV2 show of the same name, this years incarnation is a decidedly testosterone-driven event, eschewing the likes of Eternal and Girl Thing (Google the latter) whom were part of the 2014 TV line up in order to focus on what the vast majority of the baying audience were seemingly there to see anyway; the boy bands. And, be it cynical cash grab or audience savvy, some of last years groups, notably so-recently-disbanded-it-couldn’t-really-be-called-a-reunion mega band Blue, have been invited along for the ride once more.
As mentioned, it is an evening that practically lives off of the nostalgia factor, but what fantastically spirited, harmless and upbeat nostalgia it is. The 90’s and early 2000’s often get a hard wrap by music aficionados, heralded as a period that suffered a dearth of quality output, strangled by commercialism and the overly manufactured pop scene, but as the guys of the Big Reunion richly demonstrate - it was a time when pop music gave us a healthy dose of cheese and a whole lot of fun. Surely no-one can deny the sheer infectious vim and zest of Five (minus two) belting out ‘Keep on Movin’, Gareth Gates gamely reminding us of his ‘Spirit in the Sky’ or Adam Rickitt resurrecting his dance anthem ‘Breathe Again’ (sadly minus the track’s distinctive, raunchy video set up)?
Granted, there is no doubt a particular age bracket who will get the most mileage out of The Big Reunion, but that almost goes without saying, and in fairness from the likes of Michael Jackson’s nephews 3T and 911 covering the early-mid 90’s right through to the aforementioned Blue of (very) recent years, there is almost two decades worth of pop goodness on offer. And, crucially, practically every one of the acts seem like they actual want to be there, grateful and excited to be performing again, even you may lose count of how many times you are hit round the head with how special ‘[insert your city of viewing]’ is to each of them.
None of the Big Reunion Boyband Tour is original or Earth-shattering stuff, but nor does it profess or attempt to be. Rather, it gauges itself and its audience perfectly, and the level of energy and quality of performance is surprisingly high. Yes, there are occasions when the backing tracks and dancers do the heavy lifting, but I’d be lying if I said expectations on the vocal front weren’t exceeded. From a soulful rendition of ‘Forever’ from Damage, 3T performing a moving duet to their video of ‘Why’ with their late uncle (a real crowd-pleasing moment, for when can you ever have too much Michael Jackson?), 911 tearing into their choreography with relish and A1 and Five both acting as suitably bombastic, crowd-warming conduits of pop pep. The only ones feeling a little lost amongst the mix as a group, per se, were constructed band ‘5th Story’, comprising of the aforementioned Gates and Rickitt, along with Dane Bowers, Blazing Squad’s Kenzie and 90’s pop sensation Kavana, the latter of whom did not perform due to illness. A little wooly and haphazard as a group, there’s no real cohesion or gel to their look or sound, understandable given their infancy and previous proliferation as solo artists, and their real highlights undoubtedly when some of their solo work was allowed to shine as highlighted above.
Pretty much headlining both acts of the show were Blue who, pushing any question marks or pedanticism aside regarding their ‘reunion’, their inclusion is completely acceptable and understandable on the basis of their being undoubtedly the vocal powerhouses of the evening. A soaring rendition of ‘Breathe Easy’ in particular being one of the evening’s real highlights, with Lee Ryan and and Duncan James especially showcasing some truly terrific vocals. They also offered some of the most palpable and engaging camaraderie, with moments such as Ryan spontaneously lampooning bandmate Antony Costa’s voice cracking at one point feeling just that dash more natural and sincere.
Chances are, those contemplating going to see The Big Reunion are already fans of either the titular show, or one of the cadres of yesteryear amongst its line-up, so you’ll need either little persuasion or will know exactly what to expect going in. For everyone else, this is the kind of guilt-free throwback to ‘simpler times’ that you yearn for whilst sat at the office desk Youtubing your way down memory lane, or a full blown concert realisation of that moment when your old school favourite comes on at that family wedding reception. Pure, unadulterated, nostalgic, associative fun, The Big Reunion Boyband Tour may not quite be a tentpole advertisement for everything that made the past two decades of pop music great, but it certainly offers up a flavour, and is as jovial, spirited and feel-good a flashback as you could wish for.
(A)MUSINGS RATING - * * * * (3 out of 5 Stars)
+ Genuine dose of Nineties/Naughties pop nostalgia
+ Bursting with a bevy of crowd-pleasers
+ All involved seemed genuinely invested and excited
+ Blue in particular raise the roof with their vocals
+ The very welcome, and personal, Michael Jackson 'cameo'
+ Feel-good, guilt-free, infectious fun
- 5th Story still work better as soloists
- Those averse to music of the era should stay well clear, this is it at it's most mainstream and commercial
THE BIG REUNION BOY BAND TOUR 2014 ran at the LG ARENA, BIRMINGHAM for one night only and is no longer performing at the venue. The tour continues across the UK until Monday 27 October 2014.
For information on future events at the LG Arena, Birmingham, head on over to the Official Website.
Press tickets for this performance of The Big Reunion Boy Band Tour 2014 were provided courtesy of Live Nation. (A)musings Media gratefully acknowledges their generous invitation.