It’s hard to know where to look – what seems like hundreds of children and approaching-middle-aged women wearing questionable fedoras mill into the 3Arena for Olly Murs‘ third night.
Having almost sold out three nights – the odd empty seat on Sunday went unnoticed for the most part – Murs is living proof that sometimes nice guys finish last, (or second on The X-Factor, in his case), and come out better for it.
Opening with the lead track Did You Miss Me?, from his new album ‘Never Been Better’, the stage set up is elaborate to say the least, with a cinematic entrance piece. Backed by a full brass band, two DJs, and two backing singers, the welcome Murs receives is lukewarm, but this is probably down to the odd choice of opening number. That, or his horrifying attempt at ‘twerking’ is causing people to hold back.
Right Place Right Time – his anthem chronicling his lucky journey from X-Factor to becoming an established recording artist – comes about four songs too early in the set, but aptly showcases his vocal abilities. The band is a fantastic accompaniment, and brings out the best in him as performer, bringing a flourish to the immense variety of his back catalogue.
Another album track, Hey You Beautiful, is powered by applause and a glam rock guitar track. Lyrics, like describing “sex in your eyes“, and excessive crotch-grabbing sets the raunchy tone the rest of the night is to follow. Renowned for being fairly clean cut, the innuendo-laden set is enough to make the most progressive parent’s eyes water, especially given the low age bracket of most of the audience.
Similar to the previous track, Hand On Heart sees Murs relying on his two female backing vocalists to pick up his slack. For Never Been Better, however, Murs is back in the driving seat, with a blacked-out stage and rock ‘n’ roll powerhouse choruses, and shows himself as a robust vocalist.
Newest reggae-pop single Seasons is a shade too close to Blu Cantrell’s Breathe, but sees Murs remain consistent in his vocal delivery.
The arrival of a white grand piano throws up a few red flags, such as the uncertainty surrounding his ability to play any instruments. Luckily, someone else takes over, as Murs introduces his band. He, his backing singers, and his pianist deliver a gospel-inspired medley of Thinking Of Me, Busy and Please Don’t Let Me Go. Stripped to their bones, they are great, simple pop songs. Refashioned with his band’s help, Murs’ medley makes for a gorgeous performance.
“You ladies are making me hot and sweaty”, Murs comments, cementing the creepy tone he has set for the evening.
A collage of bored male faces meets Murs’ introduction of fan videos performing his biggest hits, as the females coo over Murs’ nephew declaration of love for his famous uncle.
Post-costume change, Murs re-introduces support act Ella Eyre, before dueting for Up. Originally performed by Demi Lovato, Eyre does Demi justice, with the pair harmonising well and giving a fun, energetic performance.
Slowing the set right down with, Dear Darlin’, Murs pauses to reflect on writing the track, (conveniently forgetting to mention co-writer Ed Drewett). He speaks extensively about the loss of grandmother five weeks previous and how the track helped him grieve. This, however, is impossible to take seriously, considering the contrast of the rest of the set, which featured zoomed-in shots of his behind and series of, err, erotic posing.
It cannot be denied that he is fantastically invested in the set, and this obvious from the closing disco medley. Featuring tracks form Chic and Mark Ronson, his energy never lets up. It’s also the perfect opportunity to display his funky footwork. His vocals are butter smooth – before he again, ruins the moment, by asking fans to, “come towel him down”. Yikes.
Finishing with a mash-up – his own track Wrapped Up and Bruno Mars mega hit Treasure, Murs dons a fedora one last time and vocally stuns once again. It cannot be stressed how much his live band add to the performance as a whole, and they are truly a credit to him.
It’s hard to ignore the tiny shrieking child next to me throughout; even harder to ignore is the sexual undertone of the entire show. Granted, the ‘heartthrob’ label was thrust upon him as soon as he left Reality TV Land, so it’s not expected of him to be prudish. However, the indulgent, overly-sexualised performance given is pretty inexcusable considering the age demographic of his fans.
Instead of portraying himself as the talented showman and performer, which he is, we are given a glimpse of a man who seems more than likely to pleasure himself to his own reflection and voice. Blame it on third night fatigue or the relentless touring schedule – if the vulgarity was toned down a notch, his shows would stand to gain a lot more than they’d lose.