Featured image and gallery: Ben Redshaw
Persian-American singer/songwriter Shab opens the show with the boundless energy you need on a huge arena stage. Recent single ‘Indestructible’ sets the tone, with ‘Sexual (La Di Da)’ and ‘What I Do’ further breaking the ice.
New track, ‘Pull It Up’, keeps the crowd moving, while her collaboration with Fat Joe, ‘VooDoo’, ends her slot on a high.
Tinchy Stryder is next up. Thanks to the rabble-rousing efforts of his DJ/hype man, he emerges to his name being chanted, before debut hit ‘Take Me Back’ causes near hysteria. The chart-topping duo of ‘Never Leave You’ and ‘Number One’, both taken from 2010’s Catch 22 album, are Tinchy at his peak, and he leaves the stage to an even bigger ovation than his introduction.
The light soon dim again. The curtain drops and JLS are back. They’re met with a thunderous reception, the arena echoing to the screams of multi-generational fans as the reunited group dive straight into an opening salvo of hits. ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, ‘Hottest Girl in the World’, and ‘Day One/Finesse’ are unstoppable, and with the festive season around the corner, JB can’t resist sneaking in a “Merry Christmas” reference to their X Factor days.
They invited four fans on stage for a rendition of ‘Only Making Love’, with one of them being crowbarred away from Aston at its close.
Moving away from their own tunes, they pair up into teams for a head-to-head DJ battle. They flit between noughties classics by Nicky Minaj, Justin Bieber and Macklemore, before Aston and JB bring out Fleur East for a fantastic performance of ‘Sax’. Not to be outdone, Marvin and Oritsé introduce local lad, The Wanted’s Max George, for a special run through ‘Glad You Came’.
‘She Makes Me Wanna’ and ‘Beat Again’ end the show on a high, before a begged-for encore of ‘Love You More’ and ‘Everybody in Love’ wraps things up with hands in the air and deafening screams. An incredible moment.