Anne Marie @ AO Arena Manchester review – A perfect and unexpected theatrical experience

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Featured Image and gallery: Ben Redshaw

From West End childhood star and karate world champion to BRIT Award-winning popstar, Anne-Marie arrives at the AO Arena on the back of her third studio album, Unhealthy

Leah Kate, an American singer best known for her post-heartbreak songs, is the opener. Kate tells the story of sliding into Anne-Marie’s DMs on a whim asking if she can support her on tour one day, only to be ghosted. Or so she thought. Six months later Anne-Marie replied, inviting her on the Unhealthy Club Tour. 

She sings her break-up pop anthems and instructs the audience to “put their middle fingers to the sky” for her new song, ‘Super Over’ and ends her performance with the relatable, energetic and platinum-certified ‘10 Things I Hate About You’. 

Anne-Marie strolls out in her signature baggy clothes, sporting a denim jacket and jeans decorated with ribbons and teddies. She takes a seat on her wooden stool under a single spotlight in the centre of the stage. With no backing track she opens with the first words of ‘Alarm’.

The show resembles a theatrical performance as backing dancers join her on stage, confusing the audience for a second as they are mistaken for stage crew walking around with coffee and clipboards.

As Anne-Marie sings ‘Sad Bitch’, a full bedroom set – complete with roof and a Princess and the Pea-type bed with four mattresses – is wheeled onto stage. This is the first time she gifts us with that lovable wit as she jokes that she can’t open the ‘locked’ bedroom door and is getting rained on. “Classic Manchester,” she says, inviting giggles from the audience as everyone looks up to see a cloud being lowered to join the elaborate set. 

Making herself at home, she kicks off her shoes and jumps onto the bed, which is where she remains for the next four songs. Dancers appear through the bedroom door and out comes a cake for her hit ‘Birthday’, as confetti covers the crowd below. Stripping her performance back, she sings ‘Perfect’ to herself in the bedroom mirror.

The easiest way to tell you’re at an Anne-Marie concert are the cowboy hats atop every other head. ‘Unhealthy’ is a country collaboration with Shania Twain, and upon shouting “HATS!”, the crowd turns into a wave of cowboy hats as everyone wafts theirs in the air.

‘Rockabye’ with Clean Bandit remains one of her biggest hits, and the crowd shocks her by singing the entire opening verse by themselves in the most wholesome moment of the night. 

Following ‘Grudge’, Anne-Marie thanks her thousands of fans and reminisces about performing to just 300 people in Manchester three years ago. She even gets every woman in the arena excited about her dress, telling everyone, ‘it’s got pockets! Ladies you know what I’m talking about”. 

We’re soon back underway with ‘Friends’, followed by a mini rave of everyone bouncing to ‘Baby Don’t Hurt Me’ and Anne-Marie dancing across the stage singing “big fish, little fish, cardboard box”.

She takes a seat under a red spotlight for the encore and plays the opening notes to Top 5 hit, ‘Psycho’, lighting up different sections of a balloon tree as she goes. The instantly recognisable beat gets the crowd screaming, with flames sending out waves of heat into the audience, as everyone sings back with an amplified level of sass for the final flourish. 

The theatrical elements take this performance to the next level, making it much more than a typical gig. Anne-Marie’s endearing and joyful personality comes across in leaps and bounds, making the entire experience come together as a whole.

Leah Kate Supporting Anne Marie at Manchester AO Arena

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Josie Hunt

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