Lads R Us

East 17 Whitley Bay Ice Rink
After scooping an Ivor Novello this week (see right), there's very little separating East 17 mainman Tony Mortimer from Take That's boffin Gary Barlow. Blow for blow, they're about even. You might say that Mortimer is just Barlow with a smaller bum and harder mates.

But there's still something fabulously dirty about East 17; their best songs reek of kebabs and Brut, and make you feel like you've just had the builder's paws all over you. "Who wants to sleep with John after the show?" offered Brian, the pixie-ish one, at Whitley Bay Ice Rink on Wednesday. John gave a sudden jerk of the hips, and I swear I saw somebody's mum put her hand up.

They didn't have Take That's pyrotechnics, but then neither did they sing a crap Beatles medley. They dropped from the rafters on ropes, dressed in camouflage gear like four Action Man dolls, and maintained that silliness for 90 minutes. They don't dance, exactly. They just "lad", if we can use that word as a verb to describe the swagger and braggadocio that thrives wherever boys are.

They've got the trousers as well as the mouth, though. The show snags midway, when too many filler songs are stretched too long, but your dissent doesn't stand a chance against the industrial disco of "Steam" or the soulful newie "Someone to Love". Not to mention their sweetest song, "Deep", which has a teenager's insatiable curiosity about sex, and gives you an idea of how Prince might have sounded if he'd been born within the sound of the Bow Bells. "I wanna do it 'til my belly rumbles," Tony purred. What must the kids have thought? They went wild, the little devils, just like their mums.

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