Michael Ball Bournemouth International Centre

~ Melanie Vass for Daily Echo on 17 September 2009 ~

FEW would argue that with everything so darn miserable at the moment, this country badly needs a bit of a boost.

And who better than Michael Ball for the job of chief cheerleader? Always seemingly full of joie de vivre, his infectious enthusiasm manages to penetrate even the most cynical of souls.

Back on tour after a two-and-a-half-year absence and marking his 25th anniversary, he was in celebratory mood at the BIC and so were his thousands of fans.

With a varied set list that ranged from the Killers to Eurovision, Abba to Queen, there was something for everyone.

But it is the big musical theatre numbers that most people were longing to hear, and he did not disappoint.

An emotionally charged rendition of Les Miserables' Empty Chairs had the audience totally spellbound, swiftly followed by Tell Me It's Not True from Blood Brothers.

Songs from Jesus Christ Superstar, Hairspray, Jekyll and Hyde and Aspects of Love confirmed his status as one of musical theatre's great performers.

And despite 25 years in the business, he is as self-deprecating as ever.

He said he had to be persuaded to perform Mack the Knife, the song so frequently murdered by X Factor wannabes, because he wasn't sure he was up to it.

He needn't have worried but his respect is admirable. The night ended with a good part of the audience dancing in the aisles and calling for more.

Michael Ball as chief cheering-upper? The campaign starts now.

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