09 December 2012 (gig)
11 December 2012
As a not-even-closet pop fan, the opportunity to accompany a friend's 13-year-old daughter to Capital FM's Jingle Bell Ball this year seemed too good to miss. With a flashing wristband and £5 lemonade at the ready, I braced myself for the roar of 20,000 screaming teenage girls - and they did not disappoint. Capital FM have outdone themselves this year, and though we missed the Saturday night offering of One Direction, JLS, Bruno Mars and others, Sunday had plenty of treats on offer.
Girls Aloud opened the show with their 'first proper live performance' since their reunion. They danced through older hits including Promise This like they'd never been away, and a storming performance of Something New showed everyone they really are BACK, and they mean business. For me, they were the highlight of the show, but I was probably one of the only people in the arena who could operate a television when they started ten years ago...
Next up, cheeky little Justin-Bieber-not-at-all-alike Conor Maynard took to the stage, bouncing around like a pre-teen who'd had too many skittles in his dressing room. Girls screamed, he bounced, they screamed more, he did some funny dance moves, then left before everyone in the room fainted with the sheer excitement of it all. Example next, who again rattled through his hits, shouting at everyone to jump up and down and talk to him a lot. Changed The Way You Kissed me is a huge tune, and full credit goes to the ability of teenage girls who dedicate their time to learning every word of every song by their favourite artists, even when they're rapping quite fast.
After a short break Rita Ora entered, dressed like JJB Sport and a tub of hair gel had thrown up on her. Her vocal absolutely filled the arena, and all the Dad's who had been forced to accompany their teens got a little hot under the collar. My 13 year-old companion was mostly disappointed that she removed the swear words from explicit-hit How We Do (Party). Calvin Harris then appeared behind some decks, and didn't move or speak much throughout his set, apart from to shout "LONDON" a few times. Example came back on for We'll Be Coming Back, and Tinie Tempah turned up looking about as cool as one man can look. There's not much 'performance' watching a DJ play through his latest albums, but every track from 18 Months is so good no-one seemed to care.
After another short break where every girl in the arena was given a paper bag to stop them hyperventilating, The Wanted appeared behind some doors, which I'm told were on fire at one point, but I was buying a £7 teacup-full of cider at this point. The Wanted danced about and winked at the cameras and name dropped some other venues they've played at, but assured us that there was no place like home, and all the girls sand, danced and cried through some songs I'd never heard.
Headlining the evening was the raunchy, exciting and possible unstable Pink (or P!nk), who seemed an odd choice for a night aimed at teeny-boppers, given her reputation for unpredictable, explicit, sexy live shows. She growled at everyone, cooed at her baby girl who was off stage, and reminded us all why she was named Billboard's Number One Pop Musician of The Decade. She closed the show wih some outrageous wire acrobatics, flying around the arena like it was effortless, perching on the rear seating blocks and swooping over the crowd like a scene out of The Birds. Incredible stuff.
The night, as a whole, was as close to a perfect few hours of pop music as you could get. All credit has to go to the production team, who's split staging meant there was barely a gap between acts, and some seriously exciting video design. Roll-on the Summertime Ball!