Liverpool Summer Pops

~ Chris High for The Stage- 21/07/2008 ~

“The thrill is the next challenge and we love to communicate through song,” Michael Ball tells his enraptured audience halfway through this blinding set of songs from some of the world's biggest musicals.

Judging by the energy the “man flu”-hit star throws into each and every rendition, he clearly does not have a problem getting his messages across.

This is quite simply a stunning performance from a man who is as homely as Hovis and as talented as any other star of his generation and of those past. Oh What a Circus, You Can't Stop the Beat, Love Changes Everything and On Easy Terms from the Liverpool-based Blood Brothers, all has the audience rising spontaneously to their feet, but it is a quintet of numbers from Les Miserables - including a truly remarkable Empty Chairs And Empty Tables - alongside a haunting Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar which live longest in the mind.

Patrolling the stage with a breathtaking zeal, Ball takes the 8,000 in attendance to his heart and, with unabashed sincerity, never lets them go. Here is a man clearly at ease with himself, who allows that self-same confidence to shine to the point where people actually believe they can do anything they want.

Closing on a power filled You'll Never Walk Alone which was closer to the Carousel original than the Kop could ever come up with, and a rousing Do You Hear The People Sing from Les Mis, Ball climbed the steep staircase down which he had entered the arena two hours and 40 minutes earlier, smiling and waving his goodbyes to deafening applause.

This was a quite astonishing performance from a true master of his art and one can only hope that it isn't a further three years before he graces the stage in this way again.

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