LIVE: LITTLE MIX @ MANCHESTER ARENA – OCTOBER 20TH 2017 129

To an almost completely packed-out arena, The Voice Israel winner Lina opened the show with a short set which showcased not only her impressive vocal range but also several other talents including belly-dancing and piano playing. A considerable unknown to many, the Little Mix tour has seen Lina earn herself thousands more fans across the country, a fact she openly delighted in when she thanked the girls for bringing her out on the road with them and she spoke, on more than one occasion, about how kind, loving and receptive the Mixers of the UK had been towards her in recent weeks. Rounding off her time on stage with her new single “I Wore It Better”, she then proceeded to peel off her red sweater and throw it into the crowd where it was caught by a very happy fan in the first few rows.

American singer-songwriter Jessarae followed and entertained the masses with a set, and a voice, that had (and has) a very Ed-Sheeran-esque edge to it. While several of his songs sounded quite similar, that didn’t stop him thoroughly enjoying himself and standing in awe as he watched thousands of lights illuminate the huge space after he asked everyone to hold up their glow-sticks or phones.

Half an hour or so later, it was main event time and, as the lights went down, the noise level went up several notches, reaching almost ear-piercing level as Little Mix; Jesy, Perrie, Leigh-Anne and Jade, made their first appearance on stage. Kicking off their set with “Power”, although the quartet delighted their rather young audience from the offset, the girls did appear plagued by some sound issues, notably that for the first few numbers at least, their band and instrumentation appeared louder than they were.

Fortunately, as the show progressed, the sound issues abated and each of the girls got to show everyone present exactly why they make up the UK’s biggest girl band as, backed by an impressive group of dancers, they belted out hit after hit, including “DNA” and “Wings”, encouraging their crowd to sing-along, which they duly did, and in fine voice too.

Keen to spread the message of female empowerment, it was great to see “A woman is an army on her own” and “A Queen is a Queen with or without a King” flash across the giant screen at the back of the stage before the group launched into their smash hit “Salute.”

Mid-set, a giant walkway lowered from the ceiling allowed the girls, by now dressed in pink, white and blue sparkly outfits, to get up close and personal with the thousands of fans in the seats towards the back of the arena, something rarely done by any act let alone one as big as this quartet are. Making their way back to the stage, they then proceeded to showcase their own impressive dance skills and challenged the audience to remember the lyrics to some of their earliest material; needless to say the crowd succeeded every time.

Disappearing from view for a few minutes, and asking, via another message on screen, for the crowd to chant “Little Mix” – which they did although perhaps not as loudly as they might have expected or hoped for – the girls then made their way back on stage for an encore, which consisted of only one song, but admittedly, one of their best – the anthemic “Shout Out To My Ex.”

For almost ninety minutes, the girls danced and sang their hearts out, their passion and excitement returned ten-folded in the eyes and faces of their largely young audience. It’s rare to see a band win over thousands upon thousands of people of all ages, with several different tastes in music, but Little Mix can – and did – do it tonight in some style.

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REVIEW: THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS – AMERICA 36

Five years in the making, Thirty Seconds To Mars’ new album ‘America’, which Jared promoted this week by hitch-hiking his way across his home country as part of an event called #MarsAcrossAmerica, is most certainly a considerable shift away from what members of the Echelon have heard from the trio (though current duo) over the years. But is this said shift good or bad?

Beginning with “Walk On Water” which introduced both old and new fans alike to the bands’ new rather electro-edged sound, ‘America’ starts off well, especially given that the rather radio friendly “Dangerous Night” follows on from it.

“Rescue Me” ups the tempo somewhat, and with its toe-tapping, body swaying rhythm, combined with Jared’s rough edged vocal, it’s just over three and a half minutes of enjoyable considerably upbeat rock, and the simplistic chorus in particular will work well when – or if – its performed on their current Monolith tour.

Prior to the release of the album, the band gave a sneak peak of one of the album’s collaborations, with A$AP Rocky. Having watched said sneak peak, this reviewer personally felt his involvement was random and pointless. Fortunately however, and for reasons unknown, he doesn’t feature on my (likely all UK albums) version and with the song performed for the most part in a breathy, almost dream-like manner, it would most likely have been completely ruined with Rocky’s inclusion.

The “Monolith” instrumental, AKA track 5, doesn’t really serve any purpose, however it does lead into the album’s one collaboration that REALLY does work – that of Jared and Halsey on “Love Is Madness” – one of the darker tracks, but not the darkest, on the album. She compliments Jared perfectly, enhancing the song and its sultry mood/feel to the point where it easily stands out as a highlight of the collection.

“Great Wide Open” is an inspiring track, and one that’s perfect to listen to when you’re out discovering yourself or exploring this world we live in, or most likely, doing both at the same time. It’s the type of song you can see playing behind a montage of a person’s life, as their friends and family pay tribute to or celebrate them in some form or another, and with that in mind, it’s one of the album’s strongest, and most emotive, pieces.

Mixing simple electronic hooks, plenty of synth and a chorus which, it could be argued, is rather understated, “Hail To The Victor” almost flashes back to the ‘Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams’ era of the band, perhaps included to draw that chapter to an undeniable close. The darkest, deepest number on the album comes in the form of “Dawn Will Rise.” With lyrics including “Come and hit me, strike me while I’m down” and “Fortunes fade in time, I must change or die.”, it’s certainly not a track to listen to if you are in a good mood, as its sombre, almost depressing tone, matched by Jared’s almost defeated vocal performance, will soon shatter said mood to pieces.

If there’s any real surprise on the album, it’s Shannon’s Leto’s vocal on “Remedy.” It’s raw and stripped back in comparison to any track that has come before and comes after it. There’s an organic feel to the song, and Shannon’s performance, although different, is so in a phenomenally good way, and he’s no doubt going to find himself requested to play it live.

The chorus of “Oh Oh Oh”, on “Live Like A Dream”, in a nice touch from the band, was recorded at one of their Camp Mars events, and serves as an audible reminder for those who were there of the project they were involved in (though it’s unlikely they knew what it was for at the time) and the fun they had, while for other members of the Echelon, it’s a nice throwback to the ‘This Is War’ era when many of them featured on that album, having participated in ‘summits’ around the world.

“Rider” has so far proved to be quite a strong, albeit new, inclusion to the band’s tour setlist, and with its rising crescendo as the piece nears its end, it’s quite stirring and powerful. Meanwhile, on the deluxe edition of the album, the acoustic, choir-inclusive version of “Walk On Water” might lack the energy of the original, but with the electronics removed, it brings Jared’s genuine vocal ability to the forefront again, and such has been considerably lacking up to this point.

With remixes growing in popularity, it’s not that surprising to find the band have included 2, the first being a R3hab remix of “Walk On Water.” For those who like a more dance-like and continued electro-feel to their songs, it’s not a bad version by any means, but it’s not the best remix ever made either, and the Cheat Codes remix of “Dangerous Night” doesn’t fare that much better.

Despite the new sound and styles with which the band have experimented on this collection, ‘America’ is still at its heart, very much a Thirty Seconds To Mars album, and if the social media reaction is anything to go by, it’s proving a hit with their huge following. Yes there are tracks on the album that don’t quite work as well as they should, like the remixes, but for the majority, lyrically and instrumentally, it’s a considerably solid piece of work that fans hopefully won’t have to wait another five years for in order to hear its follow-up.

YOUR ULTIMATE TV GUIDE: WHO’S APPEARING ON WHAT? 29

Here is your guide to the upcoming TV appearances, from The Voice to Sounds Like Friday Night, awards show to chat shows.

SOUNDS LIKE FRIDAY NIGHT – FRIDAY 13 APRIL @ 19.30 ON BBC ONE
Greg James is joined in the studio by special guest Lily Allen. Returning with her first new album in four years, Lily performs two tracks, including her latest single Higher. Sam Smith treats Dotty to an exclusive performance when she meets him backstage at the O2 as he embarks on a world tour. Singer-songwriter James Bay also returns with new music, performing his single Wild Love live in the studio. Australian chart-toppers 5 Seconds of Summer give a special performance of Want You Back – the lead single from their highly anticipated third album.

There is also part two of Dotty’s trip to Tokyo to meet Little Mix – this week they take on Sounds Like Friday Night’s 60 Seconds of Song challenge. How many of their hits can they cram into one minute?

THE GRAHAM NORTON SHOW – FRIDAY 13 APRIL @ 22.35 ON BBC ONE
Graham is joined by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Oscar-nominated star of Moonlight and James Bond Naomie Harris, starring together in monster movie Rampage, and Sherlock and The Hobbit star Martin Freeman, appearing in horror anthology Ghost Stories. Roger Daltrey performs his new single As Long as I Have You.

ZOE BALL ON SATURDAY – SATURDAY 14 APRIL @ 08.30 ON ITV
To kick start her brand new show Zoe Ball will be joined by Hollywood actor Michael Sheen, Geordie comedian Chris Ramsey and Radio 1 DJ Greg James. Plus, there’s music in the studio from award-winning US band Walk The Moon.

HARRY HILL’S ALIEN FUN CAPSULE – SATURDAY 14 APRIL @ 19.30 ON ITV
Helping Harry Hill fill the fun capsule and prevent an alien invasion this week are, comedian Micky Flanagan, political journalist Robert Peston, Coronation Street actor Sally Dynevor, and broadcasting legend Anneka Rice.

ZOE BALL ON SUNDAY – SUNDAY 15 APRIL @ 08.30 ON ITV
Zoe Ball eases us into Sunday morning, with celeb chats and music from singer-songwriter Lissie. Plus, The Saturdays’ Mollie King meets Hollywood stars Luke Evans and Dakota Fanning – find out what they make of Zoe’s ‘bag of balls’!

LOOSE WOMEN – MONDAY 16 TO FRIDAY 20 APRIL @12:30 ON ITV
On Monday, Boy George drops by to talk about the upcoming Culture Club tour. Tuesday sees Brian Conley reveal all about his new show Buy It Now. Amanda Redman drops by on Wednesday to discuss the latest series of The Good Karma Hospital, while American actress Kathleen Turner drops in on Thursday. Finally, joining the girls on Friday will be music icons Shaggy and Sting

CELEBRITY JUICE – THURSDAY 19 APRIL @ 22.00 ON ITV2
Joining the panel this week is TV presenter Scarlett Moffat, First Dates Fed Sirieix and Geordie funny man Chris Ramsey.

SOUNDS LIKE FRIDAY NIGHT – FRIDAY 20 APRIL @ 19.30 ON BBC ONE
Greg James and Dotty present and are joined by Canadian chart topper Shawn Mendes. With over four billion views online, Shawn performs two songs live in the studio. Indie rockers The Vaccines perform their new single I Can’t Quit, while Brits Critic Choice winner Jorja Smith delivers a special performance of her track Blue Light.

THE GRAHAM NORTON SHOW – FRIDAY 20 APRIL @ 22.35 ON BBC ONE
Graham is joined by Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch, playing Dr Strange in Avengers: Infinity War, Matt LeBlanc, playing himself in the final series of Episodes, actress Maxine Peake, playing a 70s club comedian in Funny Cow and Mary Berry and Claudia Winkleman talking about new BBC1 show Britain’s Best Cook. Plus music from Calvin Harris featuring Dua Lipa, performing new single One Kiss.

CELEBRITY JUICE – THURSDAY 26 APRIL @ 22.00 ON ITV2
Joining the panel this week are pop sensation John Newman and Celebrity Juice regular Gino ‘Sheffield’ D’Acampo.