Another year, another rousing pop festival from the North East radio giants, as the Newcastle Metro Arena played host to some of the biggest names in the industry for the annual Metro Radio Live gig.
As with last year’s event, the bill mixed performances from extremely high profile stars – like Olly Murs, Labrinth and McFly, with currently trending acts like Little Mix and DJ Fresh and relative new-comers like Angel, Connor Maynard, Amelia Lily and Misha B. It was a crowd friendly set-up, rounded out by the likes of Leona Lewis, Lawson, Scouting For Girls and Stooshe, and the mix of talent was undoubtedly why the gig sold out.
Each was given between ten and fifteen minutes, with a fairly heavy emphasis on the show-casing of new songs, as well as some classics mixed in for good measure, and the occasionally deafening response from the crowd, which began just after Metro Radio’s Steve and Karen introduced Lawson and endured until the last wiggle of Olly Murs’ perpetually grooving backside.
As with all gigs – and probably more so here given the amount of talent on show – the single biggest issue is that of flow: just as band’s agonise over which songs fit where in a set-list, it was important for Metro to get the flow right between each act. And for the most part it worked well – Lawson were a strong choice to open, Labrinth took us into the interval perfectly and Little Mix and Olly Murs would have been most people’s choice to head the bill.
The only issue was with where McFly played – immediately after the interval – and it was only thanks to an energetic and excellent short set from the boys that really made it a noticeable thing. For three super-extended songs (Five Colours in Her Hair, Love Is Easy and Shine A Light,) they owned the stage and the audience, showing exactly why their reputation as a live act is so good. And it was a genuine shame when they had to leave, taking their between-songs banter and their enormous charisma with them – and though they might not have the current profile of Murs, I couldn’t help but think it might have been more fitting to have them right at the top of the bill.
Anyway, it was only a slight issue, and it didn’t do much to interrupt the flow of the second half of the show, even if a comparatively slow Misha B set and a subsequent stripped down Leona Lewis changed the dynamic between appearances by DJ Fresh, Little Mix and the always game Olly Murs.
Highlights almost certainly included McFly’s tub-thumping set – the perfect way to celebrate Dougie’s birthday – Amelia Lily’s outstanding vocal performance and the polished, diverse performance of Labrinth, though there were very few bumps in the road. Those that did occur – like slightly ropey starts for both Stooshe and Little Mix – can easily be chalked down to the occasion and were only noticable in the context of how good everything else was.
All-in-all it was a colourful and supremely entertaining showcase of pop music, formatted brilliantly and with impressive production including artist introductions and a short surprise cameo by Ant and Dec. And if final praise were needed, it was the kind of event that immediately made you want to go out and buy the albums of the talents on show – just as last year inspired purchases of Rizzle Kicks, Loick Essien and Emeli Sande.
The North East does gigs like this well, which makes it an even greater shame that so many top bill acts now ignore Newcastle in favour of playing Manchester and Glasgow, and we can only hope that next year’s event pulls in as much talent and as good a crowd as last night did.
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