Is George Ezra the future of pop or simply the worst? Getintothis’ Steven Doherty tries to decide which he is feted to be.
The soulless surroundings of the new M&S Bank Arena is quite an apt venue for tonight’s gig, as accusations of soulfulness or otherwise have been cast against tonight’s main protagonist.
On the subject of arena gigs, it’s not often that Getintothis’ has been to a concert where they have seen the audience bring a phone charger, their own pillows (as evidenced tonight) or have so many children in attendance that it feels like some sort of panto.
First of all, a short history lesson.
Getintothis was first made aware of George Ezra by 6 Music playing his first two singles Did You Hear The Rain and Cassy’ O back in 2014, it sounding like it was sung by a wizened old blues artist from Tennessee.
So, it was a bit of a shock to find that it was a scrawny white Hertfordshire boy.
The parent album Wanted On Voyage deservedly reached number 1 in the album charts. So far, so good, as a promising start to a indie-pop career.
But then, his second album Staying At Tamara’s turned out to be nothing more than an absolute pop sell-out.
Full of banal, watered down, jolly sick-pop tunes, it is bland beyond belief, the antithesis of the first record, Sheeran-esque in it’s playing to the masses.
So, it’s safe to say that tonight could go either way.
Firstly though, it’s Sigrid.
Yesterday saw the release of her debut album Sucker Punch, the reference to which tonight, gets the biggest cheer of the evening from the massive crowd that have got here early to check her out (unusually for an arena tour support).
She flies through most of the tracks from it, fully utilising the two small plinths that she gets to dance from onstage. High Five is an early catchy highlight, and the longer the set goes on, the more self-confidence she shows in the material, as it’s pop banger after pop banger.
She tries to engage a reaction out of the (seemingly) pop heathens in attendance to not much avail. If there’s any justice in the showbiz world, next time we see her then it will be her own mad, showy headline arena show.
Her shoes are flung off for set closer Strangers.
An absolute star in the making.
The in-between music brings to mind the great unanswered question, just why weren’t Junior Senior the biggest pop act of the 2000’s?
Before the main act arrives, Getintothis is made aware of another gig happening in Liverpool tonight which must act as a warning to tonight’s headliner should he ever fall out of fashion.
90’s heartthrobs and Top 10 stars, Five, are this evening playing a gig at the Mecca Bingo in Knotty Ash.
Has ever such a bleak sentence ever been typed?
So, a cheesy opening featuring a massive alarm clock leading into a breakfast radio show playing his own record (very meta), leads into George Ezra appearing onstage, front of centre, with his band very much in the background, kicking into It Don’t Matter Now.
“My name is George Ezra and this is my lovely band”, he introduces humbly.
The band are frighteningly polished, not a note of place all evening, giving way to Ezra, alas nothing much to see, just literally one bloke with a guitar.
The stage is set out with 3 stained glass windows, within which the backdrops change, but other than that, there’s not much of a big show.
He tells stories time spent in Barcelona (which leads into, funnily enough, Barcelona and also Pretty Shining People), but other than tales such as that, there’s not much to differentiate between seeing him live and being at home listening to the albums.
Tellingly, Did You Hear The Rain brings both the most heartfelt performance, all drama and passion, and the worst audience reaction, it’s almost as if they just want the bland stuff.
They soon get this in the shape of next song Paradise, which gets the crowd simply moving in their seats.
The only genuinely splendid track from Staying At Tamara’s follows in the shape of Hold My Girl, the mobile phone lights of the crowd together with the descending lights from the ceiling give the track some heart, it’s a truly goose-bump inducing moment.
What follows then are some more anecdotes from Ezra ahead of a noticeable mid-set lull, which leads Getintothis to wonder as to how much of this show would change from night to night, speeches and all.
Not a lot we would wager, professionalism holds sway.
The set ends on two of his earlier tunes, Blame It On Me and Budapest (a tale of which is the only time there is any audience dissent, Ezra playfully booed after admitting he’d never seen the Eurovision Song Contest).
Then he’s back, swigging from his mystery flask (is it water, honey or vodka?).
The encore of Cassy O and (quite possibly the worst single of 2018) Shotgun, the pure essence of the yin and yang of soulfulness and soulless.
So, it’s still 50/50. He’s either got some passion and guts, or he’s all that’s grim about pop.
Maybe that’s his gift to the world. Or not.
Images by Getintothis’ Amy Faith