Will Young, Roundhouse, London
Thursday 18 December 2008
Last weekend, in a dramatic show filled with tears and self-importance, Alexandra Burke was crowned winner of The X Factor. On the other side of London town, the original TV talent show graduate Will Young was enjoying a quieter celebration of sorts. It was the final night of his month-long UK tour promoting his album, Let It Go, and he was in a playful mood. Let's not forget that winning one of these shows is by no means a golden ticket to fame and fortune (David Sneddon anyone?) but Young has managed to come into his own as an artist, casting off the shackles of Pop Idol, the show that made his name six years ago, to become one of Britain's most respected pop stars.
The facts speak for themselves. Four albums, 4 million album sales, 10 top 10 singles, two Brit awards and a movie (Mrs Henderson Presents): not bad going for someone who Simon Cowell once described as "distinctly average". His latest soul-pop album, Let It Go, is a deeply personal account of transition, prompted by the demise of a two-year relationship and the approach towards his thirties.
Young's unique soulful voice never faltered throughout the hour-and-a-half set that included "Who Am I" and "Love is a Matter of Distance". However, it was his performances of "Let It Go" and "You Don't Know" that provided the most poignant moments of the evening, both delicate ballads about the end of a relationship that rest on Young's controlled vocals. At other times he shimmied around the stage to the jazzier numbers including "Grace" and "Your Game". The closest Young has to an anthem is probably "Leave Right Now" but everything he tried his hand at, including covers of Joan Armatrading and Grace Jones, was well received by the adoring crowd.
Having tirelessly toured around the country for the past month, you might expect Young to be flagging by now. Not a chance. The rapport he created with his audience made it feel like he was playing a much more intimate venue than London's Roundhouse. In between tracks he entertained with jokes and anecdotes about the pressures of life on the road. At one point someone from the audience passed him a pink feather boa which he happily tossed around his neck as he introduced his alter ego, Patti Bourbon.
It may have been a much quieter affair than what was going on in The X Factor studio, but it is hard to believe that any of those contestants could bring as much personality, wit and warmth to a stage six years from now.
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