Jesus Christ Superstar @ The O2

Jesus Christ Superstar is finally being performed as a rock show, in arenas around the country, just like the good Lord (Webber that is) envisioned when he wrote it in 1970. And with a big budget, an all star cast and a Jesus voted for by the nation (take a bow Ben Forster) it has more potential than he ever could have dreamed of when the idea popped into his hippie haired head way back when. And considering that in 40 years modern dress has been done, done and done again, he’s also lucky to have the Occupy movement and the banking crisis to use as a fitting conceptual setting. The show opens with news footage of riots across the Eurozone, mixed with imaginary news reports discussing the more specific threat of Jesus and the 12; all played out on the large stage screen upon which the whole production is hugely dependent. #itsallverymodern

My excitement at seeing the production was largely about hearing the music I’ve known and loved most of my life, played out in a grand setting – and that didn’t disappoint. As the overture struck up, the music reverberated under every seat, and wailing guitars filled the room. Nothing weird or wacky, no drastically new arrangements – the music sounded just as good as ever. First up for judgement is Tim Minchin, whose brand of dreads and guy liner has clearly inspired the costumes of the rest of the cast. He puts a pretty basic spin on Judas – arguably the main man of the show. He hits all the right notes but his lyrics are occasionally blurred. ‘Heaven On Their Minds’ was great, but ‘Superstar’ – typically sung by Judas from the future – was confusing giving the modern setting of the show, and most of the lyrics would have been lost if you didn’t already know them. Mel C’s performance as Mary Magdalene wasn’t perfect either, with her distinctive pop vocals always on the edge of revealing her Liverpudlian accent, but largely she did a good job, and gave a striking visual. Most people will probably go home with her rendition of stand-out anthem ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ prominent in their heads.

Chris Moyles was well received by the audience, as I feared he would be… His performance as King Herod (which, for Jesus virgins, constitutes a 4 minute appearance on stage) was comfortably enough, just him being himself. He didn’t sing half as well as we’ve heard him sing on various novelty outings before, and his sarcastic tone managed to come across as bored and patronising. The ‘TV talk show-cum-talent show’ setting of this song would be tacky in any other context, but just about pulled through considering the overall concept behind this production. Asking the audience to vote for whether Jesus was a Lord or a Fraud was done with the collective tongue firmly in cheek.

Voted for by the viewers of ITV1’s ‘Superstar’ earlier this year, Ben Forster took the lead role, and pulled it off without a hitch. His rendition of showstopper ‘Gethsemane’ was my stand out moment of the night, and received the biggest ovation. It also has to be said that he was one of the few people on stage who remembered that this show is to be acted as well as sung – obviously upstaging the less experienced celebrities performing with him. Plus, I’m sure even the least musical audience members will have been impressed by his strong falsetto…since there isn’t really anyone out there now who doesn’t know what that is (thank you Saturday night talent shows).

However, I fear that the challenges posed by performing in an arena were not achieved by the creatives. The music sounded great – but in the grandeur of the O2 Arena, the production looked too small – too contained within the traditional stage. Having witnessed in-the-round spectacles and various stage settings in this same venue, put on by far lesser producers of pop shows, I had hoped for a bit more from Lloyd Webber here. Even the much-used video screen behind the stage was small in comparison to the size of the room. For some of the tickets to have cost £90, I fear this kind of theatrical experience wasn’t worth the money. Overall, that was my only real criticism here – but because it was the one thing I was expecting to differ from other JCS productions, it was a considerable let down. That said, listening to one of the greatest musical scores played live by a great band, headed by a perfect Jesus, as loud as you could possibly want – is only ever going to be a pleasure.

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Lady Gaga – The Born This Way Ball

As soon as the lights go down, Lady Gaga, completely covered by mask, armour and netting, rides out on stage on a mechanical horse – boom, there she is. And yet The Born This Way Ball is slow to start. As she is led around the catwalk she performs album filler ‘Road To Love (Highway Unicorn)’ which gets everyone singing along, in high anticipation of the Lady revealing herself. But as the song ends she indulges in a skit – Kill The Bitch – where she shoots dead a dancer, before performing album filler No.2 ‘Government Hooker’ – still covered up to the extent that we can’t see her face. Finally, after simulating giving birth, she erupts into ‘Born This Way’, and we’re off. For all its comparison to Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’ and criticism for failing to live up to her ‘anthem of a generation’ title, ‘Born This Way’ is a great song, and it ignites the crowd, now geared up for one night to be carefree about life, and serious about music.

For the next five songs however, Gaga insists on some sort of spoken ‘intermission’ in between each one, which keep the running of the show a bit stuttered, and leaves me a bit confused. Surely there’s supposed to be themes here – a concept – a reason for the songs being divided into ‘acts’, and yet I don’t understand it. I, who know as much of the shows of Jackson, Madonna, Bowie and Grace Jones as Gaga does, and who knows her own music inside out, am completely lost. So there’s little hope for many of the young teenagers and middle aged couples making up a surprising percentage of the crowd. Many of the tracks were short – a dozen songs only had a verse and two choruses performed – whilst many of the ‘monologues’ were more drawn out than most of the audience cared for. She took several minutes to declare “I am not an alien. I am not a woman. I am not a man”, before the bloke next to me shouted “What the fuck are you then?!” Yes, for anyone over 16, sometimes the Mother Monster garb can be a bit much.

‘Bad Romance’ and ‘Judas’ sound incredible in the surrounds of Twickenham Stadium. Launching into ‘Just Dance’ she declares, “Sometimes I think, what if I’d never written this song…none of this ever would have happened.” A dramatic thought, but probably very true. Gaga’s success was hard earned, but it was that one track, and that one cultural explosion that catapulted her into the electronic superstardom she inhabits today. But, for many people her greatest moments remain her isolated piano performances – in this show, that’s a keyboard stemming from the handlebars of the motorbike she is seated on. Her acoustic rendition of ‘Hair’ stirs the goosebumps alright, and we even get a sneak peak at ‘Princess Die’ – a song about (you guessed it) Princess Diana, which Gaga happily announces “will be controversial”. Telling us about how her record label feared she was aiming the Born This Way album to too much of a niche market, she looks around the stadium and declares “this is a pretty big fucking niche”. In these moments I’m always struck that Lady Gaga could pull off a whole show – probably in a more intimate venue – just at a piano. Indeed I’d be highly surprised if MTV Unplugged don’t come a-kocking within the next few years.

Gaga announced the show was running 30 minutes late, so she was going to “rock on before they pull the plug”. Unfortunately for us, rocking on meant skipping ‘Americano’, ‘Poker Face’ and ‘Alejandro’ – usually performed as part of the solid set between ‘Electric Chapel’ and ‘Paparazzi’. It seemed unfortunate that big tracks like these were sacrificed for so many album tracks – particularly the likes of ‘Electric Chapel’ and ‘Heavy Metal Lover’, or tracks that were never even released, like ‘Fashion Of His Love’. All is forgiven however, by the time we get to the grand finale and the Lady flexes her musical muscles by dropping ‘Paparazzi’, ‘The Edge Of Glory’ and ‘Marry The Night’ as if she just has too many goddam hits to get through. ‘The Edge Of Glory’ was a truly beautiful moment to send people packing home with, and it was the stand-out stadium anthem I imagined it would be as soon as I heard it.

As much as I felt the concept of the show was a bit misguided, and didn’t live up to the strong message of the album, anyone who would basque in the thought that she’s ‘running out of ideas’ is still wrong. Her recent 5 minute promotional film for her perfume ‘Fame’ is one of the best things she’s ever done, and her forthcoming third album ArtPop is already being raved about. There’s many more years left in the Haus of Gaga.

Setlist

 

Highway Unicorn (Road To Love)

Government Hooker

Born This Way

Black Jesus + Amen Fashion

Bloody Mary

Bad Romance

Judas

Fashion Of His Love

Just Dance

LoveGame

Telephone

Heavy Metal Lover

Bad Kids

Hair

Princess Die

Imagine (John Lennon Cover)

You and I

Electric Chapel

Paparazzi

Scheibe

ENCORE

The Edge Of Glory

Marry The Night

Bruce Springsteen @ Hard Rock Calling, London

It’s been 2 years since I converted to the Church of Springsteen, so the only thing that delighted me more than the release of the Wrecking Ball album (which I reviewed earlier this year) was the return of Bruce and the E Street Band to Hyde Park last night, as part of their 2012 world tour. Although I’m fairly new to all this, I was well aware in advance that for die hard fans, a Springsteen gig is akin to a religious experience; but having swotted over the back catalogue for the past few months, I was ready to hold my head high and roar the lyrics with everyone else.

By the time I got through the entrance and hit the crowd, Bruce had just taken to the stage to open with a piano solo version of ‘Thunder Road’ – usually reserved for encores, he silenced the crowd with the 1975 classic as the sun set in a orange-purple haze behind him. Then, the E Street Band joined him for his standard opener ‘Badlands’ before launching into a string of stompers from Wrecking Ball. “Looks like we’ve got a beautiful night London”, Bruce roared about half an hour in, before cautiously adding “Give it fifteen minutes right?” In fact the rain held off for about ninety minutes before soaking us persistently for the best part of an hour. But, Bruce ignored it, and so did we.

For the first time since releasing The Rising in 2002 (which contributed several songs to the set), Springsteen has a new record which punches its weight alongside rock n roll classics, and for many people around me, they rejoiced as much at hearing ‘Death To My Hometown’ and ‘We Take Care Of Our Own’ for the first time, as they did at hearing old favourites. An extended brass and horn section recreated the specific sound engineered on Wrecking Ball – somewhere between an American folk song and an Irish jig. They also seem to have dictated the inclusion of Born In The U.S.A tracks like ‘Darlington County’ and ‘Working On The Highway’, which sound bigger and badder than before. The late Clerence Clemons – Springsteen’s long time saxophonist and friend – was remembered at various points of the night, in Bruce’s speeches, song dedications, and in the wonderful playing of Jake Clemons, who has taken his uncle’s place in the band.

Famously, Bruce plays sign requests passed forward through the audience. A girl who sat on her boyfriend’s shoulders with a sign saying ‘MY NAME IS BOBBY JEAN’ didn’t get to hear her namesake, but one guy at the front did have success. His sign asked for a rare outtake from The River, ‘Take Em As They Come’; and underneath he had written the names of the five European cities where he’d already seen the show and had his request ignored. Bruce said “Tonight my friend, this is your lucky night. You’re gonna hear this damn thing”. A combination of his overjoyed face on the big screens, and the introduction of the crowd to a great unknown song, made this one of the evening’s highlights.

For some reason my Wrecking Ball favourite ‘Rocky Ground’ – a glorious fusion of rock, gospel and rap, with contemporary sampling and loops – has been dropped from the setlist, having been an encore for quite a few months. That was disappointing, but instead we were treated to ‘Born In The U.S.A’ – absent from setlists for years because of its famous misinterpretation as a patriotic song. It was in good encore company as well, with ‘Glory Days’, ‘Dancing In The Dark’ and the ‘we’ll-kick-off-if-we-don’t-hear-it’ number, ‘Born To Run’.

There was a special treat in store for the Hyde Park audience, as Springsteen welcomed none other than Sir Paul McCartney on stage, saying “I don’t wanna make a big deal of it, but I’ve waited fifty years for this”. They performed ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘Twist and Shout’ underneath a shower of fireworks, much to the crowd’s delight. But, before they could finish, the Hard Rock Calling organisers pulled the plug on them for running over the curfew (it was 10.35pm; Bruce had played from 7.30pm). The audience booed, Macca walked off, and Bruce was unable to be heard as he tried to thank us and say goodnight. It seems that here in the summer Olympic city, noise after 10.30pm somehow isn’t acceptable – even when it’s the sound of two music legends joining forces for an historic moment.  A disappointing ending to a wonderful night.

SETLIST

Thunder Road
Badlands
We Take Care Of Our Own
Wrecking Ball
Death To My Hometown
My City Of Ruins
Spirit In The Night
The Promised Land
Take ‘Em As They Come
Jack Of All Trades
Empty Sky
Because The Night
Johnny 99
Darlington County
Working On The Highway
Shackled And Drawn
Waitin’ On A Sunny Day
Raise Your Hand
The River
The Ghost Of Tom Goad
The Rising
Land Of Hope And Dreams

ENCORE

We Are Alive
Born In The U.S.A
Born To Run
Glory Days
Dancing In The Dark
I Saw Her Standing There (with Sir Paul McCartney)
Twist And Shout (with Sir Paul McCartney)

***

The Wrecking Ball Tour continues across northern Europe in July, and returns to North America in August and September.

Top 10 Pop Culture Moments of 2011

1. Beyonce at Glastonbury

On 26 June history was made at Glastonbury, not least because it had its first female headliner in its 40 year history, but because that headliner was Beyonce, and she was phenomenal. The mighty Beowulf tore through a back catalogue that anyone else in the business would die for, and she did it all in killer heels. ‘Crazy In Love’ was a trusted opening number, ‘Irreplaceable’ was the surprising sing-a-long of the night and ‘Single Ladies’ was the festival’s anthem of the year – performed with the iconic dance routine perfectly in tact. She threw in a Destiny’s Child medley, for good measure, and covers of Alanis Morissette, Kings of Leon and Prince made sure the broad spectrum of music lovers in the 200,000 strong crowd were all impressed. Her set was perfectly crafted and well polished, as theatrical as a Madonna show, with all the raw energy of Tina Turner – to name but a few of her many influences. This career defining performance made one thing crystal clear: standing out in a league of her own, Beyonce is the only true superstar of our time.

2. Adele at the BRITS

Adele’s second album 21 was already top of the charts in 17 countries when she took to the stage at the BRIT Awards on 15 February. Then she sang ‘Someone Like You’ and the rest is history. With a simple acoustic performance of an incredible song, Adele captured the attention of the entire O2 Arena, and the hearts of millions watching on TV, who saw her raw delivery culminate with a tear at the end. Unwittingly, Adele propelled herself into a meteoric sphere of success. Much to the amazement of the music industry, she garnered as much publicity with a single performance as most artists can hope to achieve with a gruelling promotional schedule. Furthermore, this was the kind of ‘moment’ that the BRITS are made of. The key to Adele’s ensuing international success was summed up by James Corden, as he hosted the BRITS that night: “You can have all the dancers, pyrotechnics, laser shows you want, but if you sound like that, all you need is a piano.” Less than a year on, the video boasts 80 million hits on YouTube, 21 is the best-selling album of the new century, and ‘Someone Like You’ is firmly established as a classic pop standard.

3. The Royal Wedding

They thought a royal wedding might drag us out of economic depression, so on 29 April we partied like it was 1981, and watched Prince William marry his university sweetheart Kate Middleton. There was a triumph for British fashion in the form of Kate’s Grace Kelly-inspired dress, crafted specially by Sarah Bourton for Alexander McQueen. Indeed there was an equally famous fashion faux-pas in the form of Princess Beatrice, who thought she could pull off a Philip Treacy hat, and ended up just looking like a pretzel.  Pippa Middleton nearly stole the show – or at least her bum did – and many wondered if William hadn’t picked the wrong sister. Meanwhile, President Obama didn’t attend, because he’d planned for Osama Bin Laden’s assassination the following evening. Carlsberg don’t do weekends…

4. My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

“A unique blend of ancient cultural traditions and modern celebrity extravaganza” – that’s how Channel 4 described the spectacle that is the gypsy wedding; the second favourite marriage ceremony of the year. Liverpudlian dress-maker Thelma Madine spoke candidly about how the traveller women may look like “tramps and whores” but they are in fact “the salt of the earth.” The one thing she didn’t speak about was how much money she makes from her consistent production of over-sized, fluorescent pink dresses; so heavy that they have been known to break bones, and often decorated with so many electricals that they must be followed around with a fire extinguisher. The documentary series did provide an eye-opener for the nation on the traveller community, but perhaps not quite the same one the stars of the show may have hoped for – they have Channel 4’s dry, ironic voiceovers to thank for that.

5. Bridesmaids

It was the big movie surprise of the year: that the summer blockbuster was not a 3D action packed sequel with major Hollywood names, but rather a modest comedy, with a cast composed entirely of unknowns. The movie was produced by Judd Apatow, responsible for The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and it was written by Saturday Night Live member Kristen Wiig – who also stars as Annie. Bridesmaids narrates the all too familiar ritual of women preparing a wedding, with all its mayhem, madness, and cut-throat jealousy. Throw in an unusual love story between protagonist Annie, and her local policeman (Irish comedian Chris O’Dowd), and you’ve got yourself a winner. An unlikely star was made in Melissa McCarthy (the slightly more sizeable sister-in-law), whose character and one-liners made her the star turn of the movie. There was even a small cameo from one of our own, Matt Lucas. Considering Bridesmaids took almost $300 million at box offices, I’d imagine we can expect a similar comedy, if not a sequel, from the same production team at some point in the future.

6. The Harry Potter Finale

After 10 years, and $7.7 billion dollars made in worldwide receipts, the Harry Potter film series finally came to an end this summer. The all star cast of the final installment was a reminder of J.K. Rowling’s original wish that the line-up remained primarily British. The films have helped secure Harry Potter as something as ingrained in British pop culture as Shakespeare or The Beatles. It remains to be seen whether or not Warner Brothers’ substantial campaign for Oscar recognition for this final film will succeed. Whether or not it deserves such an accolade remains debatable. If anything, an honorary prize for the overall effort would appear much more agreeable than something like Best Supporting Actress for Emma Watson. The horror…

7. Lady Gaga – Born This Way

You’d be forgiven for thinking Lady Gaga’s hit ‘Born This Way’ had been around for longer than 10 months; not just because of its striking resemblance to Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’, but because it has been played more times than ‘tag’ in a primary school playground. The Born This Way campaign got off to a rocky start. People were unimpressed with Gaga’s declaration that it was “the album of a generation”, and many of her faithful followers felt her title track was too much of a contrived gay anthem. But, the campaign still managed to go from strength to strength. Some standard Gaga stunts (arriving at the Grammys inside an egg, attending the MTV VMAs as her male alter ego Jo Calderone) were fine accompaniments to a string of hit singles, including ‘Judas’, ‘You and I’ and the wonderful ‘Edge of Glory’. As we enter 2012, the album has sold over 8 million copies, and rumour has it a 450 date epic world tour is right around the corner.

8. The King’s Speech

Speech therapists everywhere rejoice! Your art is suddenly interesting. For many, Downton Abbey was the major success of the 2011 period drama revival, but it was The King’s Speech that kicked it all off. Winning four of the major Academy Awards, it was the biggest Oscar success for the British film industry since Slumdog Millionaire, and it gave Colin Firth the major leading role he’s been waiting on for nearly two decades. Even the Queen was said to be moved by the portrayal of her father on screen. The Queen Mother was given a fierce character portrayal by Helena Bonham-Carter, who demonstrated her famously bold personality and her distaste for Wallis Simpson. And for anyone interested in the Wallis and Edward sub-plot, get ready for Madonna’s exploration of it in her directorial debut W.E, coming out early in 2012.

9. Take That – Progress Live

Following Robbie Williams’ return to Take That, and the band’s hugely successful Progress album, anticipation was high for their reunion shows. Breaking records only previously held by Michael Jackson, Progress earned $180 million with 29 shows, and secured Take That’s status as a stadium act. The boys continued with their famously well choreographed performances, and a stage design by Es Devlin became the most recognisable image of the shows (see above), securing her a spot for designing the Olympic Closing Ceremony and the forthcoming Lady Gaga world tour. It’s true that a few people raised eyebrows at the segregated Robbie segment, which perhaps dwelt too much on his own solo success; but it did mean the other four got to bask in their glory too before the show culminated in all the classic numbers. Isn’t it great when everyone is friends again? Next up, The Smiths…

10. The demise of X Factor

2011 saw the take over of the apparently ‘New Generation’ of X Factor, in the form of Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland, Tulisa, and still – Louis Walsh. By and large, most of us were not impressed, and the show was watched out of habit, as opposed to any genuine interest in the acts. Gary Barlow used the gig to continue his campaign for national treasure status, and in the process won the hearts and minds (and knickers) of every woman in the country – and quite a few men too. Other highlights included Kelly Rowland’s many ghetto catchphrases (“you put it down!”), her pathetic ‘sick call’, and Kitty Brucknell getting a hug from Lady Gaga. The Voice is coming to BBC1 next year – so let’s never speak of this again.

Jack Whitehall @ Hammersmith Apollo

As his role in the new comedy show ‘Fresh Meat’ continues to secure Jack Whitehall as a household name, on November 8th I attended one of the final performances of his ‘Let’s Not Speak Of This Again’ tour. For most people in the audience, there appeared to be a general curiosity about what Whitehall would be like when he wasn’t on television, and where better to demonstrate that than in the mecca of comedy venues – the HMV Hammersmith Apollo.

For contemporary Britain, Whitehall offers a refreshing comedic type – he’s neither the traditional camp talk show host, nor the middle aged, made-for-panel-show, lamenting house husband. He’s young, he’s marketable, and something of an expert on popular culture – regularly tearing apart celebrities and mocking C-list wannabes from reality TV shows. He’s not, however, just one of the lads. He’s on fairly good terms with his feminine side (see how effortlessly Google suggests the word ‘gay’ as you search his name), although he is a confident heterosexual; and of course, he is undeniably posh.

In fact, being posh is Whitehall’s primary source of self-mocking – it is most likely the explanation behind the stoic statement which gives the tour its name. Of course there are his general inadequacies in the pursuit of growing up, but such anecdotes tend to be so full of references to his privileged background that it’s difficult to escape it as an overarching theme. When he tells us his school (Marlborough if you’re interested) was “so Caucasian, it made Midsomer Murders look like The Wire”, he manages to mock his own origins suitably whilst keeping the audience on his side, still managing to make a down-to-earth impression on people like Dom – the evening’s typical lad with a beer in the front row who is repeatedly picked as a port-of-call when Whitehall questions his own masculinity.

At 23, Whitehall is still quite young, and the many stories of his youth are coloured by the presence of his mother and father in the audience, at what is effectively his hometown gig. As is the case with most comedians, his parents are highly caricatured – presented as the creators of the attention-seeking yet self-loathing performer we see before us. He tells of how his mother held up his stained underwear to demonstrate why Kate married William instead of him (not that that was ever a real possibility), and how his father confiscated his roller blades to prevent him from looking like “a sissy” at the ripe old age of 11 (before realising it was something of a lost cause). As hindsight begins to kick in though, he is fearful that they may have been right all along. That being said, the fact that he can mime trying to quietly hump a girl at his parents’ house while they watch from just a few rows away, gives as much credit to his relationship with them as it does to him as an entertainer.

The show twists and winds through tales of failed relationships with girls and successful relationships with chain restaurants; his love of retro mobile phones and his hatred of American customer service; and his imagined relationship with ‘old school pal’ Robert Pattinson. Finally, he appears dressed in the bright yellow chicken costume he was wearing as he drunkenly tried to prove his maturity to a disgruntled girlfriend. He is currently single.

Jack Whitehall’s ‘Let’s Not Speak Of This Again’ tour is sold out, but will have a DVD release on 26 November. Next year he will star in his own prime time Channel 4 show called ‘Hit The Road Jack’.

Hurts @ Brixton Academy

There was a triumphant tone in the air at the Brixton Academy on November 4th on what was the final engagement of Hurts’ hugely successful European tour. It’s been a prosperous year for the duo on the whole, with their debut album Happiness enjoying sustained chart success and NME naming their Glastonbury performance the best of the festival. The result was an act standing securely and confidently on a modest platform which could barely contain the grandeur of their sounds and visions.

The boys took to the stage to the tune of their album opener ‘Silver Lining’ with their highly synthesised music benefiting pleasantly from a string section involving quite a few beautiful women in black fishnets. The scene is immediately set for the distinctive Hurts brand; a unique blend of melancholia, film noire and Cold War totalitarianism, all of course finished off with their curious stylistic reference to those 1980s fashion titans Bros. In close succession, they delivered ‘Wonderful Life’, one of their most recognisable songs, and they revel in the cult-like chanting of their crowd of followers – a unique blend of gay men, Dalston hipsters and middle aged couples, if you’re at all curious.

Frontman Theo Hutchcraft serenades his audience as if they were the lost love for whom most of the songs are written. In his light Mancunian accent, he speaks very little, preferring instead to stick to a well oiled score of perfect electronic pop. His sleeked hair, black leather gloves and short metal cane present him like a retro Bond villain, but as he sways clutching his chest and propels endless white roses into the crowd, he is undeniably channelling a little Morrissey.

The special treat for the Brixton audience came halfway through ‘Devotion’, when Miss Kylie Minogue appeared casually at Theo’s side to sing the verse of the song she performs on the album. This was closely followed by a near epic rendition of ‘Confide In Me’, a 1994 record which is one of the more modest on her list of greatest hits, but now enjoys something of a revival care of its inclusion on Hurts’ set lists. This sent the audience into euphoria, and though she ran the risk of upstaging her hosts, Kylie left the stage as humbly as she entered, and the show went on.

The mood was brought to its most intimate for the short but beautiful ‘Verona’, the album’s hidden track, but for the finale the boys saved ‘Stay’ which has been adopted by many commercial outlets as their standout track. The small but packed surrounds of the old music hall erupted in the singalong chorus; throw in a few pyrotechnics and an uncharacteristic beaming smile from our frontman and this is a truly moving moment.

After one short encore of ‘Better Than Love’, it was apparent that Hurts have managed the rather difficult task of fitting in an entire album’s worth of songs with a few extras, and yet there was not a dull moment. The end feels natural and the audience have had their fill; no more and no less. They have mastered their performance. Hurts will undoubtedly move out from under the radar for a spell now as they plot their next move, but this performance showcased them at a pivotal moment in their career. They have so much in which to relish, and so much still to achieve.

Hurts’ debut album Happiness is now available as a deluxe edition complete with bonus tracks and a DVD of their Berlin concert.