REVIEW: SIAN CROSS – ‘CONSCIOUS’ EP 66

Having already shared the stage with Jessie J, Daniel Bedingfield and the icon that is Stevie Wonder, Sian Cross is no stranger to the music industry, and she’s well and truly on the way to leaving her own mark on it.

Her EP Conscious showcases her talents superbly and there’s a passion and honesty to her lyrics that have been missing from a lot of releases in recent years. With a vocal delivery that is so full of emotion it sent shivers up this reviewers’ arms at least once, the 5 track collection serves as a great introduction to those who have yet to discover how good this young woman is.

The EP opens with “Tell Anybody”, an anthem perfect for anyone struggling through life or fighting a battle that seems never-ending. It’s a testament to individuality and a call to all those who listen to it to be themselves, to stand up for what they believe in and to live their life their way.

“Stare At Me” was inspired by a Katie Piper documentary Cross watched shortly after undergoing surgery to remove a teratoma, which left her with several scars. While she recovered and while feeling insecure, the documentary encouraged Cross to reveal her true self to those around her; scars and all, and this song is a reminder to everyone, herself included, about the strength that comes with being yourself and accepting who you are 100%.

In a world where so many people are judged and judge others on their appearance, Cross should be commended for creating a song to inspire, encourage and motivate all those who listen to it to think twice about what they say and do, but more importantly, to remind them that we’re all human and that no-one, even if they believe that they are, is perfect – and that’s something we all have in common.

Next is “The World As I”, a melodic little number that would work well as a future single. It’s slower and softer than the previous two tracks, which some listeners might be put off by, but it’s certainly worthy of several listens.

“On and On” meanwhile is another empowering track, inspired by an encounter with a stripper Cross had one day. Strippers and other individuals often get a bad reputation for what they do, without others taking into consideration a persons’ back-story or reasons for doing the job in question. “On And On” serves as yet another reminder that those who do what they want to and what they believe in are some of the strongest people around, and no-one has the right to judge them for it.

Adding a touch of poignancy to the collection, “Four Weeks” is a sentimental track which pays tribute to Cross’ father who died several years ago. The emotion with which Cross delivers the lyrics is enough to bring those who hear it (certainly myself anyway) to tears as she puts into words and to music how difficult for her the loss was to deal with. She wanted to write and share the song as a way of helping others through similar situations and, as she explains, that’s exactly what the track has done:

“Since releasing the song, I have received a number of messages from people expressing the comfort and strength that Four Weeks had given them. One person even told me that they hadn’t been able to grieve for their mum but this song allowed them to release the pain they had been hiding.”

Very few artists in recent years have addressed such a personal issue so publicly as Cross does on this track, the exception perhaps being “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day, written about the passing of front-man Billie Joe Armstrong’s father, and I for one want to stand up and applaud her for doing so. As someone who lost a loved one a few years back, this song has given me a new perspective and serves as a musical reminder that I’m not alone in struggling with the loss I’ve endured. Sometimes we all need a little reminder that we’re all living life on this Earth together, and as much as we might feel it sometimes, we’re never truly alone in what we’re feeling.

As of this moment, this collection is easily my EP of the year and it will take something truly, truly special to top it. Conscious is available now on iTunes.

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LIVE: THE SCRIPT @ MANCHESTER ARENA – FEBRUARY 3RD 2018 40

After a hugely successful mini-tour back in August and September ahead of fifth studio album Freedom Child’s release, it was really only a matter of time before The Script found their way back to the place they truly feel at home – on stage. But, before they delighted the thousands of die-hard fans, some of whom had queued since 2am to get the best spots at the barrier, who had sold-out Manchester Arena, it was up to Ella Eyre to metaphorically, and given the biting February cold, literally help warm them up ahead of the main event.

Ella walked on stage to a rapidly filling arena and for the next half hour, danced, shimmied and sang her way into the hearts of many before her. Vocally, she may not have been the strongest female to have graced the arena stage, but she certainly proved herself to be one of the most energetic as she encouraged the crowd to sing and dance along, especially to closing number and smash hit “Came Here For Love” which went down a storm.

After an interval of around half an hour, during which time a four sided curtain shrouded the B stage towards the back of the arena, the lights dimmed once more and, almost simultaneously, the cheering proceeded to get louder and louder. As the curtain fell away to the opening notes of “Superheroes”, the band, drummer Glen, guitarist Mark and front-man Danny, complete with newly dyed blonde locks, made their first appearance before their ecstatic audience, with Danny bouncing up and down brimming with the energy of a man half his age, but with a vocal that’s never sounded better.

Having told their fans via Twitter that this new tour was to be very interactive, following “Rock The World”, the band proceeded to prove said comment via “Paint The Town Green” and with Glen armed with a mini drum and Mark leading the way with his guitar, the band made their way through the packed crowd down to the front and onto the main stage.

“It’s Not Right For You” offered up the first real opportunity for the thousands packed into the venue to show off their vocal skills, and they seized said opportunity happily as their “oh-oh-oh’s” echoed around the vast space, before they earned themselves rapturous applause from Glen and bassist Ben in particular for their efforts during “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved.”

As Danny took a seat at the piano that had by now appeared on stage, he began to play the intro to “Wonders”, a track from the bands’ latest album which had already proven itself (given the Twitter reaction it’s received in recent months) to be a new fan favourite, so needless to say, as the thousands present finally heard it live for the first time, they were more than a little happy. One individual close to the front was likely even more so, when, mid-song, having left the piano, Danny proceeded to reach over, grab their drink and take a swig of it. The trio then continued to power their way through their set, delivering hit song after hit song – “Six Degrees Of Separation” and “Nothing” being just two, with applause and cheers rarely far from their ears. “If You Could See Me Now” meanwhile had many audience members, myself included, on the verge of tears, and the emotion in Danny’s voice, and in his eyes, was clear for all to hear and see.

“No Man Is An Island” had practically everyone in attendance (at least those I could see), including those in the seats, at Danny’s instruction, placing their left arm around the shoulder of the person next to them and taking eight steps to the left and eight to the right in time with the music – it made for quite a sight, one which has seen the crowd since be referred to, rather humorously, as “penguins.”

Continuing to be extremely (and surprisingly) interactive during with the crowd their set, the band then appeared in the middle of the seating area, surrounded by standing fans, and proceeded to play renditions of “If You Ever Come Back” and the beautifully melodic “Never Seen Anything Quite Like You”, before, as Mark and Glen made their way back to the main stage, Danny continued to delight those in the tiers by singing “The Energy Never Dies” as he made his way through the crowd back towards his bandmates.

It’s not every day you see fans hold up umbrellas indoors, but that’s exactly what some did during the performance of “Rain”, the song that rounded off the main set. Having left the stage for a few minutes, during which the sound of thousands of stamping feet and rapidly increasing in volume cheers echoed from all corners of the venue, the band then returned for their encore, kicking it off with “No Good In Goodbye”, closely followed by “Breakeven.”

With tonight being the first show the band have played in the arena since 2015, and following the bombing last year, it was touching to then see Danny introduce on stage the Parrs Wood High School Harmony Choir, who performed with Ariana Grande at the One Love Manchester concert.

He then went on to give an emotive and passionate speech about freedom:

“We all stand united together Manchester. That’s what this album is about; freedom. The freedom of expression, to love who you wanna love, to be who you wanna be, to say what you wanna say. Have no fear. Never fear! Now to me, music has always been the one true religion, because it accepts you no matter who you are, what colour, what creed, what sex, what shape, what nationality…it cares not. It’s always been there for me since I was young, and I’m guessing, by looking at all of you, it was there for you too.”

He called on everyone present to take out their phones and record the moment that was unfolding, inviting them to make a memory with him and the band. That moment, with thousands of lights filling the arena, created what Danny referred to as “a whole constellation of stars” of which he said, “every one of those is a portal to the outside world, and we’re going to give them a moment to remember.” As he asked if Manchester was ready to “make a moment”, the roaring cheer he received in response told him the answer was an emphatic ‘yes.’ From there “Hall Of Fame”, with the choir adding an extra special something to the performance, closed out the set, ending it on an undeniable high.

With over a dozen more dates still left for the band to perform on this leg of the tour, and likely scores more yet to be announced, tonight The Script not only entertained those before them, but also got those with tickets for upcoming shows, and following the show on social media, even more hyped up. They might have been away for close to three years, but given the energy and passion with which they performed each and every song, together with the reaction of the crowd, tonight in Manchester, it was like they never went away at all.

BRIT AWARDS 2018: RITA ORA TO PERFORM 42

The BRITs 2018 performance line-up adds another superstar in Rita Ora who will take to the stage at the awards ceremony for the first time this year. She will join Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Sam Smith, Stormzy, Rag’n’Bone Man and Jorja Smith at The O2 on 21 February for the biggest night in British music.

Previously nominated for four BRIT Awards, and with 7 million single sales and a No. 1 platinum debut album to her name, Rita’s recent return to music has seen her into the charts four times in less than a year, most recently with ‘For You’ – a duet with BRITs 2018 double-nominee Liam Payne.

Rita said: “I am so honoured to be performing at The BRITs this year, as a British artist it has always been a dream of mine and I am beyond excited”

BRITs Chairman & CEO and Chairman of Sony Music UK & Ireland Jason Iley said: “The BRIT Awards are a celebration of the biggest success stories of the last 12 months in music and Rita has had an incredible year.  She is one of the most exciting British artists of her generation.  I am so pleased to welcome her to The BRITs stage and very much look forward to what will undoubtably be one of the evenings many highlights.”

The 38th BRIT Awards will be hosted by Jack Whitehall and broadcast live on ITV. Celebrate with us on 21 February!