Given Natasha Bedingfield's swift ascent to stardom - in six months she has sold more than a million copies of her debut album and notched up two Top 5 singles - it's a surprise to find that her first tour is a simple affair.
Given Natasha Bedingfield's swift ascent to stardom - in six months she has sold more than a million copies of her debut album and notched up two Top 5 singles - it's a surprise to find that her first tour is a simple affair. No stage hydraulics, no dancers, not so much as a costume change. All we get is two backing-singers, a few neon strips and, of course, the lady herself - all wavy tresses, cheekbones and 1,000-watt smile.
Dressed in a floaty white dress with black leather stiletto boots, she arrives looking one part Madam Whiplash to two parts vestal virgin. As has been widely publicised, Bedingfield, along with her multi-platinum-selling brother Daniel, is a clean-living girl with the Lord on her side. Christina Aguilera she ain't, and even with the saucy footwear, she exudes a scrubbed wholesomeness.
Bedingfield shrewdly caters for all tastes and ages. Tonight's audience comprises everyone from pre-pubescent girls in cowboy boots and mini-skirts to misty-eyed couples in their thirties and forties. Even the parents don't seem to be here under protest; instead they sway along with their offspring and hold their mobile phones aloft (lighters are so 1995, don't you know) during the slow numbers. Musically, Bedingfield is similarly all-encompassing, with songs traversing electro-pop ("I'm A Bomb"), rock ("If You're Gonna...", "Peace of Me") two-step ("Frogs & Princes") and contemporary R&B ("These Words", "Single").
It's a relief to discover that Bedingfield really can sing, and that she avoids the vocal aerobics favoured by so many of her peers. What she isn't, however, is a natural performer. Too eager to please, her on-stage banter ("I wasn't prepared for such an amazing audience") sounds feeble and forced. Physically, too, Bedingfield cuts an awkward figure - she must be cursing the stylist who chose the kinky boots - and lacks the charisma to hold our attention for a full hour.
That's not to say that she doesn't give it her all. During the attitude-filled "Single" she strides up to the guitarist and gives him a shove. Elsewhere, she milks the slushy moments for all they're worth. You can feel the waves of nausea rippling through the crowd as she picks up a red rose and tells us how a man recently offered her a flower on the street, only for her to cruelly turn it down. At the start of "I Bruise Easily" she sits on the edge of the stage and, bathed in dry ice, holds her head in her hands. Should her pop career grind to a halt, her agent would be advised to get Andrew Lloyd Webber on the phone.
It's all flawlessly executed and, let's be honest, dull as hell. She probably won't thank me for the comparison but, where her brother is Cliff Richard for the new generation, our Natasha is Dido the Second. Her place in heaven may be a done deal but she's going to have to do better than this to make her mark on pop history.
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