James Arthur @ O2 Academy, 25/3/17

In three words: anything but electric. Somewhere in between the older crowd and repetitive ballads, the gig lost its energy or perhaps it was never energised to begin with. As we stood between a smashed middle aged woman and a rather irritated guy holding his girlfriend and James Arthur walked onto the stage, I thought, “is this another support act?”

It was possibly the quietest crowd I’ve ever seen for a No.1 Single artist. He opened with ‘Back From The Edge’. Firstly, I didn’t know this song all too well and apparently neither did the rest of the crowd and secondly, surely opening with a more well-known track, like ‘Impossible’, would have set a better tone for the rest of the gig?

The atmosphere lifted as my favourite tracks were played, including ‘Sober’, ‘I Am’ and ‘Recovery’. The upbeat nature of these songs made some of the crowd dance, particularly the drunk woman next to me, who admittedly was often more entertaining that James Arthur himself. However, the artist’s transition from rap to power ballads to soul filled tracks was admirable and gave the gig some life. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand his raps during the gig despite loving them while listening at home.

In a few brief interludes, Arthur mentioned his personal struggle with depression and addiction as many of his lyrics surround these topics. Admittedly, this was not only brave to do in front of a crowd but it was refreshing to see an artist be honest about their issues rather than hiding behind cheesy lyrics written to make money, rather than to make good music. My favourite live track was the No.1 hit single ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’ as it featured this honesty as well as creating a brief electricity that the rest of the gig lacked. James Arthur’s music is empowering, inspiring in fact, however the crowd’s most enthusiastic response was to his cover of Clean Bandit’s ‘Rockabye’ and I think that says it all.

George Arkley

(Image: Price Studio)

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