tue 18/12/2018

X Factor Live, Wembley Arena | reviews, news & interviews

X Factor Live, Wembley Arena

X Factor Live, Wembley Arena

A night of fun if few surprises from Cowell's children

Misha B: the freshest voice from the finals

The X Factor has been rewriting the Gregorian calendar since its inception in September 2004. It’s now more acceptable (nay, expected) for major label pop acts’ careers to fall like dominos after the first year, while at the other end of the scale we’re sped into an accelerated, broader-spanning nostalgia - a longing sensation triggered mere minutes after the ITV1+1 broadcast. It’s with this in mind that the staging and characterisation of The X Factor Live caused such intrigue.

Last year’s finalists were largely paraded before us, styled exactly how we saw them on television and singing songs that we’d already seen. Much like any arena show, arguably, but engineered with less space for its stars to get a word in edgeways and more time to drum in the programme’s army of tropes. The familiar adverts telling us to text to win this, tweet to win that and go on iTunes to download the other were even in place in the interval.

Marcus was a personification of the machine, giving us little more in the flesh than a re-hash of smiles, shuffles and stock-phrases

The surprise was just how much slicker the winners Little Mix have become since winning the competition in the past three months. Their show at Wembley Arena still merely teased at what might be to come, but gave pop fans plenty of reason to be excited. It’s what they do with their voices and how they gel; powerful but never overbearing, more subtle and nuanced now at the right moments. There are still tricks to be learned, but if they ditch the dodgy raps (see Leigh-Anne’s part in “Super Bass”), hone in on those harmonies and avoid becoming caricatures of themselves we could have a new All Saints in our midst.

Fourth-placed Misha B offered another cause for excitement, and her take on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep" was the freshest song of the night - even though it feels like it’s been around for years. The swells, control and determination in her voice filled the arena without even breaking a sweat. For different reasons altogether, the otherwise hypersexualised Johnny Robinson was laudably given the space to perform “That Ole Devil Called Love” free of fuss and full of charm.

Elsewhere, there wasn’t that much to see in terms of exciting personality-filled potential - but that’s not to say that the touring version of The X Factor machine isn’t brilliant. For example a stylist somewhere clothed resident voice of credibility Janet Devlin in 2005 offcuts from Camden Market, while Kitty Brucknell arrived on stage on a spinning Catherine wheel. Liverpudlian Marcus Collins still merely appeared to be a personification of the machine, giving us little more in the flesh than a re-hash of smiles, shuffles and X Factor stock-phrases. The night passed at rapid speed without pausing for breath and, while perhaps not offering us the gateway to a pop hall of fame for the 2010s, gave great food for thought: maybe we should just stop thinking of what’s going to happen in two years’ time and just roll with the preposterous fun instead. 

It was much like any arena show, but engineered with less space for its stars to get a word in edgeways

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters