o2 Academy, Birmingham
By Glenn Rossington
For the debut uk solo tour, there were still plenty of tickets on sale tonight on the door, but a vast amount of people inside. I cannot say I paid any attention to the support acts, but judging by the screaming and squealing from the girls down the front, I think they were well received! I wasn’t really sure what to expect from tonight in all honesty. I have never been a massive fan of Nicole’s music and was too preoccupied by the photo restrictions of having only one minute, yes a whole sixty seconds in the pit to cover the performance. Now maybe Lady Gaga I could understand someone having those insane restrictions, but Nicole Scherzinger, minus the rest of the Pussycat Dolls?
Anyway, not to dwell on technicalities, how was the show? Well standing side of stage was Lewis Hamilton which for the most of the show, seemed to go unnoticed! As a performer though, Nicole has her show down to a fine art. Having been in the PCD’s and a burlesque performer in her early career, she knows how to entertain. I cannot help but feel though that her overall sound was flat and relied too much on ‘theatrics’. Her vocals stood up well. Opening track ‘Club Banger Nation’ got the audience in a right party mood and were singing along loudly, pointing and waving at Miss Scherzinger as she came down from the giant podium at the back of the stage into the front. But the band was missing. There were a wealth of instruments dotted around, Keyboards, Drums, Guitars and Synths, but no ‘oompfh’. It sounded more like her backing music was an mp3 and the musicians were miming!
No one, however, can fault her enthusiasm. When she got going, she was bounding around the stage like there was no tomorrow. She had slick choreographed dance moves that could have left the Pixie Lott’s and Justin Bieber’s of this world to shame, but again, this is calling on her years of past experience. Tracks such as ‘Pretty’ and ‘You Will Be loved’ showed off Scherzinger’s enormous vocals to a tee, but as I said at the start, the thing doing her no favours was her (lack of) backing band. I was beginning to think she was a bit different from the others and would not pander to the multiple costume changes… I jinxed myself. After a fraught version of ‘How To Love’, she disappears and we are left with the dancers wheeling on a wardrobe from either side of the stage and proceed to remove and replace items in front of us. Rather bizarre as it just didn’t seem to flow and looked goofy. After a few moments though, the wardrobes are wheeled off and Nicole returns in a sparkly shawl and what looks like a sparkly leotard, just as an elongated introduction to ‘Buttons’ is played.
This moulds into the ‘oriental’ section as ‘Buttons’ kicks in with a more eastern sound than normal, this sends the audience into a bit of an overload as squeals and more ‘Kermit the frog’ like arm waving ensures a few minutes of enjoyment. As the song dies out it segues into ‘Jai ho’, yep THAT song from THAT film. For me, these last two are so far the most entertaining of the set, they are professional and polished where as the others sound ‘not-quite-there-yet’. But is seems that there has been a shift in the dynamics of the band, the instruments seem a bit louder now and are backing up Nicole’s vocals nicely. However, this dies off again when it comes back to the solo material. We get a quiet but pumped up hi-energy dance move infested version of ‘Wait A Minute’ leading into a cover of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ mashed with the PCD’s own ‘Hush Hush’. Next comes ‘I Hate This Part Right Here’ followed by ‘Stickwitu’ allowing the audience a few moments to relax and get their breath back. The final section of the main set is pumped up with singles ‘Wet’ and ‘When I Grow Up’. Nicole is in her stride and seems confident on her own, but you cannot help but feel that somewhere deep inside she misses her other ‘cats. The dancers and backing band on stage with her tonight seem so awkward and occasionally out of step as if there has been minimal practice, or the dance moves have changed last minute and no one told them. However, everything pulls together for the final set closer of ‘Don’t Cha’, the song that launched her career with the PCD’s. From the back of the room as the song finishes you can see the beaming grin on her face as she thanks us and heads off stage, the warmth and affection from the audience is clear to see and obvious that they have enjoyed it – which is the important factor in the equation.
After a teasing few moments, Nicole and her band return to the stage for one final track. The beats set in and again she thanks us for coming and asks us all to join in and ‘enjoy ourselves’ as her seminal track ‘Don’t Hold Your Breath’ takes off. The room becomes a mass of bodies dancing around and arms waving, girls screaming and boys taking photos on their phones. The rooms becomes a hot and sweaty mess for those four minutes. As the track ends the screams are seemingly the loudest they’ve been all night (if such a thing is possible). Nicole makes sure she waves at every angle of the room, trying not to miss anyone out, again thanking us for joining her on her debut UK tour and that she’ll see us again soon. With that, the lights fade out and the house lights signal that it is all over.
Overall, I do feel a bit let down tonight. There was so much potential for a decent ‘pop’ show, especially when you look at her illustrious history in the business. The impression I got was that it was all under rehearsed, the sound levels simply were atrocious from the back of the venue, the bass being far too high for the most part. But, as I indicated, the mass audience seemed to enjoy the show which was the important part. On a personal note, I know it could have been so much better. If she decides to return to the UK and tour in the future, I sincerely hope that the sound levels are sorted and the backing band do her justice. You cannot deny she has the voice and does not need auto-tune, but something big was missing.