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Liam Payne, Demi Lovato, Craig David and more: Free radio Live 2017, Genting Arena, Birmingham - REVIEW

By Sally-Anne Youll | Music | Published:

Ok, hands up, at first glance, this concert didn't appear to be my cup of tea. But I knew it would appeal to my 13-year-old daughter and it did seem to have some pretty big names on the bill so why not?

Liam Payne. Credit: Martin Dunning

On arrival the crowd seemed to be made of of lots of similar groups, mums and dads with young teenagers and their mates.

Clearly there are a few of us of the if you can't beat 'em join 'em mentality.

The bill was certainly star-studded, featuring Wolverhampton's own Liam Payne, Demi Lovato, The Script, Craig David, George Ezra, The Vamps, Jonas Blue, Anne-Marie, Louisa Johnson and Jax Jones.

The atmosphere was buzzing right from the start as the 15,000 strong crowd filed into the venue, and it really felt from the off that we were in for a good night. My first instincts were not wrong.

Jax Jones. Credit: Martin Dunning

First up was Jax Jones, playing hits that, surprisingly, I found myself, singing along to, having found their way subliminally into my subconscious somehow.

He certainly got the crowd going; they absolutely adored him.

Next up was Louisa Johnson, whose voice first came to the nation's attention on the X Factor. She certainly has an impressive range, her vocals were pitch-perfect and clear as a bell. A powerful performance.

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Louisa Johnson. Credit: Martin Dunning

Then with perfect timing, the genre changed entirely with George Ezra taking to the stage, getting those sections of the crowd not already standing to their feet. He performed hits including Don't Matter Now and Budapest, which the entire crowd sang along to.

Ezra's appearance is deceptive; It's hard to imagine the deep rich tones that resonated through the stadium coming from such an unassuming bloke. Another sterling performance.

George Ezra. Credit: Martin Dunning

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Next was Jonas Blue, who brought Tracy Chapman's Fast Car to a whole new generation. His set kept the crowd on their feet, there was clearly going to be no let up as the hits kept coming.

Then it was straight into Demi Lovato, possibly the most highly-anticipated act of the night. Clearly a favourite with the crowd her pop songs with a rocky edge had the whole standing section singing along, particularly with Sorry Not Sorry.

Jonas Blue. Credit: Martin Dunning
Demi Lovato. Credit: Martin Dunning

After a quick break, it was straight back into the action with another huge name and another change of genre, The Script.

Again it was a short, but hugely energetic set, including renditions of the band's most recent hit Rain (which went down a storm) and new single Arms Open, which had mobile phone torches held aloft across the venue.

The Script. Credit: Martin Dunning

Then it was back to the dance theme, with arguably, for those of us of a certain age anyway, the biggest name of the night Craig David.

Once again, his voice was impeccable, and, whatever you think if his music, there is no doubting his incredible talent as a singer.

His up-tempo set included a fusion of old and new hits, eliciting a great reception from every section of the crowd.

Craig David. Credit: Martin Dunning

Then it was a more recent arrival on the music scene, Anne-Marie, whose songs I was familiar with from the radio, although until now I would have struggled to name the artist.

Once again, her voice was impressive and her new single Heavy was a particular highlight.

Anne-Marie. Credit: Martin Dunning

The Vamps then took the stage, bringing a rock vibe back to the proceedings.

Frontman Bradley treated the crowd to his trademark dancing as he leaped about the stage, but having seen them live previously, their set seemed to lack some of the energy they clearly have. Maybe the short set didn't give them enough time to fully get into the spirit. The adoring fans didn't seem to notice though.

Last up was Wolverhampton golden boy Liam Payne. He was in fine voice, performing his recent hits Strip That Down and Bedroom Floor with aplomb, the dance routine understated but effective.

Keeping it simple showed off his voice to its full extent and reminded us all that first and foremost he is a great singer. He interacted with the crowd, and the best pyrotechnics and streamers were saved for his set.

Unfortunately, a lot of people missed him as a noticeable number made an early exit, keen to get younger members if the crowd home to bed, but it was their loss.

A special mention from the night has to got to another Liam, however. The youngster was picked out of the crowd by the evening's hosts for a special mention. He has recorded a sing for Cure Leukaemia and at the crowd's insistence, he sang a couple of lines of Hallelujah off the cuff, in a beautiful voice that saw silence descend on the crowd.

He'll probably be headlining one of these nights in the future.

The whole night was a fantastic party atmosphere, with the hits coming thick and fast. It is what it says on the tin – like listening to the radio, but live.

Sally-Anne Youll

By Sally-Anne Youll
Assistant Editor

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