The first band to really pack a punch is Band 3, who perform a mash-up of Rihanna's Please Don't Stop the Music and Michael Jackson's Wanna Be Starting Something. Female vocalist Ati Fisher is like a mini-Rihanna, but with one major difference; her live vocals are a class above the Barbadian chart-topper, and her attitude shows that she is a force to be reckoned with. A well-chosen song for their early position in the listings, as the infectious beat gets the crowd stamping their feet and clapping their hands along with the music, and this delivers the first hints of audience participation. They set the atmosphere perfectly.
Band 6 bring a breath of a fresh air to the set list so far, performing an original song, I Won't. This is an excellent example of the young, natural talent that Tech Music School has to offer, as Isobel Thatcher is the writer, singer and lead guitarist of this track, and with it became the winner of the Songwriters Showcase. She is unique and likable, and the song is an enjoyable acoustic number with relatable lyrics and a catchy tune. She truly steals the spotlight during their slot, and her appealing character is undeniably enchanting.
Band 7 are a duo, consisting of Sebastian Abermann and Vicky Osterberg, and they bring the second original song of the night. Kathleen, written and played on acoustic guitar by Sebastian, is charming, attractive and delightful to listen to. It's honest; no gimmicks, no hidden messages, just beautifully written and performed music. Vicky's choice of instruments- a brick-a-brac of unusual and intriguing objects- seem simple and basic at a first glance, but once she begins playing three or four instruments at the same time to various beats, it proves to be much more complex, and results in a quirky, off-the-wall sound that is not replicated by any other band.
The next band change the pace from pleasant acoustic numbers and bring back attitude in a big way. Band 8 perform Raise Your Glass by P!nk, and only someone with bags of confidence and courage can pull off a song by the spunky pop-rock princess; singer Freya Franklin does just that. She bounds onstage full of colour and energy and gets the crowd absolutely buzzing again. Instead of swaying on the spot, people are jumping up and down and punching their fists in the air, and this group manage to actually engage with the audience within the short space of three or four minutes. Guitarists Connor Loney and Alex Hilman have a great chemistry together, and this makes them feel more like a 'band' rather than just a group of 5 people thrown together a couple of months ago. The vigorous dancing and throwing glitter into the audience may have a slightly 'Glee' feel to it, but this just adds to the element of fun that this act brings.
Band 10 deliver a larger-than-life portion of raw rock music by performing Halestorm's It's Not You. Vocalist India Haywood has the potential to be the perfect female rockstar; she's strong, she's confident, she creates an air of rebellion and defiance and she absolutely owns the stage. The musicians perform a much darker sound than that of the previous acts, which is both haunting and exciting all at once, and India's voice is powerful enough to fill the whole venue with seemingly little or no effort at all. A perfect choice as the evening reaches its' mid-point, as they prevent the crowd from becoming bored or distracted and instead grab their full attention.
The final band of the first half, Band 11, are something totally different all together. They perform a combination of Bob Marley's Stir it Up and OutKast's Hey Ya, surprising the audience entirely and catching every single person off guard- in a very positive way! Stir it Up is the first taste of reggae and soul that has been experienced so far, and it is a refreshing change of pace, with the classy sound of the horn section (Ross Moore, Kenneth Brown, Owen Muir and Kayleigh Sharp) adding something a little different into the mix. Then the smooth transition into the 21st Century with Hey Ya adds a unique, modern twist to the reggae beat, and in this way they manage to appeal to everyone. Vocalist David Lawrence is an all-rounder, showing talent in both singing and dancing and, with his charismatic appeal, he is clearly born to perform.
Band 16 (originally listed as Band 4 in the programme) perform Gavin DeGraw's I Don't Wanna Be, which is a real crowd-pleaser. They are one of the few bands that perform a song so popular and so current that almost every single person in the crowd were singing along to the chorus at the very least, and by doing this, they really make their mark in the setlist. It suddenly turns from being a mixture of different bands covering different songs and becomes all about Band 16; it is almost as if it is their own gig, and everyone is here to see them, changing the atmosphere completely. Not all credit can be given to the excellent song choice though, as vocalist Aidy Aziz is possibly one of the strongest male vocalists of the entire night.
The following band, Band 17, perform probably the best ballad of the night, which is Empire State of Mind by Alicia Keys. Vocalist Martha Powley, at a first glance, is a slim, slight-framed, young woman, but as soon as she opens her mouth, the voice that pours out is outstanding. It is impossible to believe that such a strong voice is coming from such a tiny figure, but it is undeniably happening. It takes a truly powerful voice to carry out such a huge number without a single mistake, but Martha manages to do just that. She is pitch-perfect, and is complimented by the melodic tune from the keyboards, played by Mike Dunne. The song is performed beautifully and, in my opinion, her voice is the best- and my personal favourite- of the whole night.
Band 18 provide something a little different from the rest of the groups. It is easily noticeable that, although the songs chosen tonight enable the vocalists to show their talent and range fantastically, they do not make full use of the musicians in each band and, despite the overwhelming amount of skill tonight, the songs do not showcase the amazing musical ability to their advantages. However, in this song- Let Me Go by Maverick Sabre- it is actually the musicians that outshine the vocals, in particular, guitarist Aaron Forbes. Veronica Marie Jones' vocals are good, no doubt, but not especially memorable. Aaron Forbes' guitar solo, however, is outstanding, attention-grabbing and the most memorable part of this performance.
The evening so far has been full of variety, with a little reggae, a touch of rock, a hint of modern hits, and a sample of everything in between. This next act, Band 19, still manage to bring something new to the table by performing an original track, My Guy. The unique difference between this act and all the others is that Band 19 provide a whole new level of class and sophistication for the evening. The lead singer and writer of the song, Meg McCall, creates a sense of subtlety and maturity surrounding her, drawing the audience in and heightening their interest. Her image, along with the smooth sound of the song, takes the listener somewhere else (possibly back to the 1950's!) with a refined, suave, and above all impressive performance.
Band 20, without a doubt, should have been given a much earlier slot in the evening. They perform Cochise by Audioslave and it is pure rock. They burst onstage with a strong energy, raw determination and a hard-hitting song, rejuvenating the audience and breathing new life into the night. They are the first and only band to prompt a mosh pit during the night, and there is no denying the crowd have been desperate for them to break out onto the stage and really shake the place up. They boast confidence, attitude, and a hot lead vocalist (Nikita Nuttall) to really get the audience buzzing, and the response is positive. Of course, the song is performed brilliantly, but the best thing about this band is that they have managed to get the crowd totally pumped with the third-to-last song of the evening. If they had played in an earlier slot, the crowd may have been a hell of a lot more active, a hell of a lot faster.
The final band of the night, Band 22, are definitely worth a mention, even though they were not the strongest group of the night. The vocals may not have been overwhelming, the music may not have been outstanding, and the song may not have been particularly memorable (Freakum Dress by Beyonce). But a performance is something totally different all together, and they certainly delivered on that front. They hit the crowd with the shock-factor, for a start, with vocalist Ayana John strutting on the stage wearing the skimpiest outfit of the night, but completely owning it, oozing confidence. I've never been entirely sure what 'swagger' is, but whatever it is, I'm pretty sure she has it. All musicians wear the same dark eye make-up, uniting them and making them feel like a true band, and guitarist Karl Arheden doesn't shy away either, wearing very 'loud' clothes, and playing an even louder guitar solo. The whole band play like a well-oiled, attention-grabbing machine, and it definitely works to their advantage. They are the perfect final act, setting the tone for the whole night with one word; unforgettable.
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