Liverpool Summer Pops

~ Catherine Jones for Liverpool Echo - 21/07/2008 ~

NEXT year will mark Michael Ball's quarter century in showbiz.

And whether you like his music or not, it's a testament to his stamina and enthusiasm that not only is he still going strong but he's actually going from strength to strength.

With an Olivier award for Hairspray and a Sunday morning show on Radio 2, it appears Ball is having just that.

In between all this, the irrepressible singer tours the country with a 12-strong band, backing singers and special guests.

While his between-songs banter with its earnest expressions of love, peace and happiness may make the more cynical shuffle in their seats, Ball himself is utterly sincere as well as having a neat line in giggling self-deprecation.

The audience love it as much as they love his showmanship and his voice.

Over the years that voice has matured adding richer, deeper notes and with them a seemingly never-ending amount of clout.

Despite claiming to have suffered a bout of "man flu" last week, Ball sustained big endings to the likes of Kismet's Stranger In Paradise, This is My Moment and a booty-shaking You Can't Stop the Beat from Hairspray.

Striding, bouncing or finger-clicking across the Echo Arena stage, he spent the best part of two hours belting out songs from the musicals, aided at times by three guest singers.

A clutch of numbers from Les Mis were shared out before Ball, guests and backing singers came together for a powerhouse finale of One Day More.

Not everything worked. Arthur's Song was pedestrian by the evening's standards as was Godspell's Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord.

But the latter was followed by a bravura performance of Jesus Christ Superstar's Gethsemane.

Elsewhere there was a groovy It's a New Life, complete with Shirley Bassey- style bottom wiggling, while in one of a number of nods to Liverpool the set contained a brace of numbers from Blood Brothers.

The evening concluded with gaggles of women rushing the stage as Ball launched into a fast-paced Don't Stop Me Now, a slightly controversial You'll Never Walk Alone, and a final flourish of Love Changes Everything the song that did indeed change everything for its singer.


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