Wet Wet Wet
Friday 11th March 2016
I can never judge the popularity of bands like Wet Wet Wet; so I smiled to myself when I saw that the stage in the 11,000 capacity Metro Arena had been moved about a third of the way forward; making a 7,000 or so crowd looked absolutely packed; clever that.
Still, 7,000 is still a very good crowd to pack in for a 30th Anniversary tour, especially when you haven’t had a hit song in over 7 years.
To give value for money, there were also two interesting support acts tonight; and in some ways both were a bit leftfield and surprising.
First up was Ben McKelvey; who after a couple of false starts in his career has recently released a couple of critically acclaimed EP’s and was promoting his latest album Life & Love in England. The first two songs, Happy Together and Morning I’m Gone were both nice slices of spiky Indie; but it was third song, the melancholic Sunday which caught my attention; and that of quite a few others it appeared too. The classic story of the ‘morning after the night before’ was told very well; and really showcased Ben’s distinctive voice.
With only 30 minutes to play with, McKelvey and his band used every second as if their lives depended on it; building up to an anthemic close with the anthemic Goodnight & So Long.
Judging by the queue of smiling ladies wanting a photo with him afterwards I think this tour could be setting him on the road to some kind of success.
The next act was Markus Feehily; once a member of ‘housewives favourites’ Westlife, but now embarking on a solo career.
I did my research and found that Markus was the young, pretty one in the group so was a touch taken aback to see that he had actually grown up in the intervening years; and was virtually unrecognisable from those early promo shots.
As Mrs. Magpie was never a fan of boy bands, I had no idea what to expect from the Irishman, so sat back with an open mind.
With only a keyboard player and two girlie backing singers (with excellent voices, I hasten to add) to accompany him; Markus’s first three songs were all from his new album, Fire, and showed what a cracking and expressive singing voice he has; going smoothly from a deep and funky growl to some very challenging high notes; that he hit with room to spare. I was really impressed with Wash That Rain Away; a modern R&B sound that should appeal to teenagers in their souped up Corsas and Ford Fiestas.
Sadly; for me the Westlife songs, while receiving a warm reception by the ‘ladies of a certain age’ didn’t really work; as he tried to reconfigure them for his voice with sparse arrangements. While I wouldn’t rush out to buy the album; I wouldn’t mind hearing Sanctuary and his debut single, the Euro-Disco Love is a Drug on the radio as the Summer approaches.
As they re-jigged the stage Mrs. Magpie and I took a wander around the foyer and had a giggle at the stuff for sale – Wet Wet Wet pyjamas anyone? But, as it was her birthday earlier in the week I treat her to a (plastic) glass of wine…….at an eye watering £4.90! I dread to think how much the the ice-cream seller was charging for bottles!
Once I’d got my breath back and stopped staring at my 10p change it was time for the Wet Wet Wets; who are something of a ‘guilty pleasure’ of mine.
I love it when the lights go down at venues like this as there is always an audible gasp followed by a roar as the band run onto the stage; and when the lights came on everyone was in place and blasting out East of the River as singer Marti Pellow shimmied and shook his way from one end to the other of the stage; milking the adulation from the screaming ladies in the front 6 or 7 rows. With no time to catch their breath this was followed by Wishing I Was Lucky and Sweet Surrender; cranking up the already electric atmosphere to almost dangerous levels for some of the older ladies in the crowd.
Pellow didn’t help as he strutted around like a Junkyard Cat sniffing out the females of the species that are on heat (and plenty were!).
The pace had to drop eventually; and when it did, it was for the gorgeous ballad Julia Says; which highlighted what a helluva voice young Mr. Pellow actually has.
Although this tour was celebrating the band’s 30th Anniversary time hasn’t diminished their collective love of being onstage; especially Pellow; who is a born showman, and if he hadn’t made it this high up the showbiz ladder would still be knocking out the act in pubs and clubs and karaoke nights; just for the buzz.
At one stage he sat on a monitor to serenade a woman in the front row (it didn’t matter which one; they all thought it was them alone), and looked genuinely surprised when the 7,000 strong crowd took over the chorus; giving him a fit of the giggles. OK he may do that shtick every night; but it comes across so well and really endears him to his fans.
As they say ‘the hits just kept on coming’ with thousands holding their phones in the air for Angel Eyes and during 1995’s She’s All On My Mind he shared the spotlight with the sax player as #WetsFans selfies littered the big screen.
For me (and Mrs. Magpie) it was the rarer songs that captured our imagination; the Roy Orbison inspired All I Want was one particular highlight; as was the acoustic slot which featured John Martyn’s Sweet Little Mystery; not the greatest interpretation but finger clicking good anyway.
When they left the stage after a funktastic Temptation; which allowed bass player Graeme Clark to finally nudge guitar supremo Graeme Duffin out of the spotlight for a few minutes on I Can Give You Everything.
The Funk continued for the first of two massive encores; Big Sister Midnight got a revamp and had the masses dancing in the aisles; and how else could a Wet Wet Wet end but with their zillion selling biggest hit; Love Is All Around; which began with the crowd amusing Pellow and friends by singing verse, chorus, verse, chorus with only Tommy meticulous keeping time on drums; before KAPOW the band turned the once mushy song into a Power Ballad to end all Power Ballads and bring a cracking night to a wonderful close.