Diana Vickers, Water Rats, London

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The Independent Culture

Odds are that you will recognise 18-year-old Diana Vickers as a 2008 X Factor semi finalist, or perhaps you caught her well-received West End debut in the recent revival of Little Voice.

Meanwhile, Vickers has been busy writing and recording her imminent debut album, Songs from the Tainted Cherry Tree. Judging by her forthcoming first single, "Once", losing The X Factor was the best thing that could have happened to her. Her hippy guise, bare feet and quirky voice just didn't fit the tits'n'teeth, Mariah-esque mould which has become so popular on the show.

On this intimate venue's tiny stage, dressed in vintage red and looking like an early Bardot, Vickers and her band launch straight into "The Boy Who Murdered Love". She twists and turns with enthusiasm, showcasing a voice that is virtually unrecognisable from her X Factor days. Tonight is about shaking free from the shackles of people's preconceptions and she's clearly having fun doing it.

Up next is "Remake Me and You", an electro-pop gem, co-written by Brit Award-winner Ellie Goulding, which succeeds in setting off the fevered group of teens at the front. Soaking up the excitement of the night she stops only momentarily to thank everyone for coming and to announce that the next song is a slow one. "N.U.M.B" is a vulnerable ballad which unfortunately brings with it some of Vickers' infamous hand waving and face caressing.

Hands aside, she really is rather good. "Put It Back Together Again" is one of the evening's highlights; the participation of the crowd added to the grandeur of the epic coming-of-age track which she performs with confidence. There were some low points, however; "Four Leaf Clover" and "Jumping into Rivers" both lacked any real substance and sass, though a cover of Snow Patrol's "Just Say Yes" quickly came to the rescue. Proclaiming herself to be sweating "bobbers" and needing to loosen her valves, Vickers then picked up a trumpet to accompany her band on the fabulous, 2-tone-ish "My Hip". She finished with "Once", another precocious electro-pop treat.

Vickers comes across as wide-eyed and sincere on stage, performing her unashamedly poppy songs beautifully. Things seem to be going her way; but only time will tell if she has what it takes to stand up against her female contemporaries.