Olly Murs review – unbridled enthusiasm and chutzpah from the people’s pop star

O2 Arena, London
Robbie Williams-esque extrovert is at his ebullient peak with entertainment rather than reflection

It takes chutzpah for a pop star to use Pharrell’s Happy and Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off as warm-up music, but it’s a quality Olly Murs has in abundance. His career is a triumph of persistence and self-belief; as a statement of fact, the title of his latest album, Never Been Better, can’t be improved. It became his third chart-topping LP, and the tour supporting it includes four nights at the O2 in London. On top of that, the Essex-born 2009 X Factor runner-up was recently named co-host of this year’s series. Who wouldn’t award themselves an almighty slap on the back?

“May the fourth be with you,” he shouts on 4 May – see what he did there? – after an opening gallop through Did You Miss Me? and Right Place, Right Time. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. If I could, I’d come to your seats and give every one of you a kiss.” And he probably would. Murs is the people’s pop star; the flipside to his cockiness being genuine gratitude for his unfathomable rise. Saying that, it’s more fathomable once you see him on stage, where he harnesses inexhaustible energy and a light, pleasant voice, concocting a show that recognises no generation gap. Parents chuckle at his asides – “It feels like a sunbed up here – I’m ready to strip off and do eight minutes” – and their teenage offspring whoop at his twerking demonstration.

It’s a win for Murs, a Robbie Williams-esque extrovert who inhales applause as if it was oxygen, and a win for the fans, who get two hours of unbridled enthusiasm and tight trousers. (Knowing which side his bread is buttered, Murs devotes a longish interlude to showing homemade videos of fans performing his songs.) The hits come flooding: the pop-reggae chart-topper Heart Skips a Beat is still excellently bouncy; Up, performed with powerfully confident support act Ella Eyre, lends an appealing folkishness; Dance With Me Tonight’s doo-wop chirpiness is Murs at his ebullient peak.

But the kind of self-doubt that pushed Williams on is seemingly absent. Murs is here not to reflect but to entertain. He sings a medley alongside a piano, covers Uptown Funk and invites the crowd to coo over his earpiece, which is decorated with a tiny picture of his baby nephew. What’s not to like? He’s not promising the earth, just a night of slick fun.

• At Echo Arena, Liverpool, on 9 May. Box office: 0844 800 0400.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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