Free Radio Live @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Saturday 30th November 2013

Free Radio Live @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Saturday 30th November 2013Free Radio Live @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Saturday 30th November 2013Free Radio Live @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Saturday 30th November 2013Free Radio Live @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Saturday 30th November 2013Free Radio Live @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Saturday 30th November 2013Free Radio Live @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Saturday 30th November 2013Free Radio Live @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Saturday 30th November 2013Free Radio Live @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Saturday 30th November 2013Free Radio Live @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Saturday 30th November 2013Free Radio Live @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Saturday 30th November 2013Free Radio Live @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Saturday 30th November 2013Free Radio Live @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Saturday 30th November 2013Free Radio Live @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Saturday 30th November 2013

Steve Gerrard Photography

This review very nearly didn’t happen as I fell at the first fence! Somehow I had convinced myself despite written proof to the contrary, that this event was at the NIA and not the LG. So after few minutes of puzzling the box office staff at the NIA I finally worked out that I was in the wrong place at the right time.

Walking through the German Market crowds to get to the train station was like one of those dreams where you realise you’re late for an interview but you’re wading through treacle. However, thanks to some positive visualisation I made it to the arena just in time for the 3rd song of 4, Standing in the Dark from new chart botherers and show openers Lawson. They closed their opening with the Bruno Mars-esque Juliet, leaving the mainly pre-pubescent fans well and truly psyched up for what’s to come.

Steve Gerrard Photography Steve Gerrard Photography

Free Radio’s Sam and Mark were comparing and did a great job of keeping the crowd engaged whilst never letting us forget that this is a free radio event and that we should all tune in to their show in the morning to hear all the highlights from tonight.

After a very slick segue, the crowd scream in delight as the two huge video screens on either side of the stage reveal that Connor Maynard was up next and he wastes no time in launching straight into his 3rd hit single Turn around backed only by a DJ providing the scratching and presumably moral support. In an attempt at some comedy, in between his two song set, he asks the crowd to go silent as he films himself shouting out ‘What’s up Birmingham!’ but his hyped up female fans simply can’t contain themselves and after two attempts he aborts, reasoning, ‘They love me too much!’ His second and last song R U Crazy? kicks in and the bass heavy sound mix gives his latest hit a real depth and an authentic underground feel; the baby faced Maynard is given a bit of edge.

Steve Gerrard Photography

The first blast of on-stage pyrotechnics we have seen so far signals the end of Maynard’s set and the video walls show the video to ‘Hall of Fame’ by The Script & Pixie Lott was up next and wearing a mini dress and black shoes she could be a young Blondie without the sexual charisma. She is the first act to take down the energy levels as she sings Mama Do and the underrated Cry Me Out with just an acoustic accompaniment, the latter song prompting a shower of ‘snow’ from the rafters. She picks up the energy again with a medley of Boys and Girls, Kiss the Stars and a cover of Your Love Keeps Lifting me Higher.

Steve Gerrard Photography

Sam and Mark show us around the backstage area before Union J are introduced to the stage. Their first song and indeed their first single Carry You goes down well with the huge amount of J fans and as they slide into Beautiful Life, the crowd holds their phones aloft with their torches turned on which produces quite a magical effect around the arena and certainly very festive!

Steve Gerrard Photography

The arrival of Little Mix seems to increase the decibels and they kick off with DNA, then into Little Me, which they do a cappella, showing off their polished harmonies with a bit of beat boxing. Then they kick into their first number 1 single Wings and finish off with Move which crescendos with a big glitter cannon showering the ecstatic crowd with streamers and glitter.

Steve Gerrard Photography


Steve Gerrard Photography

And the end of the first half, it has flown by and after a 20 minute interval just enough time to queue for a drink or take a pee. Bad boy Twitter twit James Arthur kicks off the 2nd half with a revitalised crowd cheering their support, for all his recent nonsense the one fact remains, he has an incredible voice which is really shown off in his opening number and 2nd single ‘You’re nobody until someone loves you’ backed by a full band the sound is edgy, bassy and full, Arthur hits some high rock notes that Bon Scott would be proud of and the overall effect is uprising and exciting. Forthcoming single Recovery again shows off the tone and vulnerability in his voice and sits nicely above the piano accompaniment. He apologises for having ‘quite a week’ after cancelling a week of dates due to ‘exhaustion’ and seems genuinely grateful for the support of his fans as he invites them to sing along with his first hit Impossible. He goes off to huge applause and then Sam and Mark do a link involving the audience as they approach a nervous looking young couple you can sense that a marriage proposal is in the air and sure enough Thomas proposes live to Charlotte who happily accepts and sends the crowd into rapture.

Steve Gerrard Photography

The energy doesn’t let up as The Vamps coming on stage dressed in ludicrous Christmas jumpers seems to send the screaming to a new level, this is probably the closest I will get to experiencing the original Beatle mania. Wildheart is their new single to be released next year but already a big favourite with the fans a majority of whom are holding aloft various messages on cardboard placards at the front of the standing area some of which local lad Bradley happily reads out, in between updating the fans on their forthcoming debut TV appearance on the Paul O’Grady show and threatening to strip off on their forthcoming twitcam party, which amps up the oestrogen levels another notch. Can we dance their first hit single is blasted out next before they teach the chorus of Cecilia to the fans and proceed with their own verses mashed up into a bouncy up-tempo version of the Simon and Garfunkel hit.

Steve Gerrard Photography

We’re getting ever closer to the headliner Olly Murs and the end of the show but not before The Saturdays add their two-penneth to the proceedings, I felt at this point that being asked by another act, ‘Birmingham are you having a good time!?’ time was beginning to wear a bit thin. It would have worked much better going straight into the headline act and finish 30 mins earlier whilst the energy was still high and it was for this reason that although The Saturdays were every bit as entertaining and easy on the eye as the previous acts, it felt like trying to maintain the level of high energy for another act was trying too hard.

Steve Gerrard Photography

The sponsors of the event, the Ormiston Academy make their presence known in the form of a young singer who leads the crowd into a karaoke singalong of ‘All I want for Christmas’ by Mariah Carey which is being recorded to for Sam & Mark’s radio show the following morning. (I wonder how 15,000 divides into the performing royalties for that?) And then after the hosts get the crowd to do a huge Mexican wave, it’s time for Olly Murs to finish off the show.

Steve Gerrard Photography

After the usual XFactor style build up on the video screens, he bounces on to the stage to deafening screams and kicks straight into his last single Army of 2 backed by his regular band. Before Dear Darling, in an effort to prove his affection for Birmingham, he insists that he’s picked up some local lingo by saying ’Am yow alright?’ and bizarrely ‘Gordon Bennett!’ in a poor Black Country accent.

Steve Gerrard Photography

The fans forgive him as Hand on Heart once again prompts those with enough battery left to switch the lights on their mobile phones and hold them aloft, creating a delightful ambient glow around the arena. Asking for Me and Troublemaker finish off the night as the glitter cannons fire off into the crowd for the last time and the stage fizzes with pyrotechnics. This was a great promotional tool for Free Radio and was well organised and slick. The bass heavy, big room acoustics suited some artists better than others but overall it was like being at a 10 year old’s birthday party; loud, slightly patronising but lots of fun!

Review by Spence Cater
Photographs by Steve Gerrard

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