Wednesday, 17 December 2014

MUSIC REVIEW: Jingle Ball 2014

With the Jingle Bells comes the Jingle Ball, and, if you're ready to swing with the mood, jingle all the way. Following the obligatory warm up of disco and Chrimbo tunes, Cool FM's third annual "hip pop" extravaganza bursts into life, dazzling the eyes and ears of the screaming thousands in the Belfast Odyssey.

It's not so much a Christmas gig than a Christmas present for the predominantly youthful audience. Selfies, photos and flashing lights are all encouraged above, around and below the star filled stage.

And it is Labrinth's "We Will Rock You" claps that set just the right mood for deafening sound and beats. His pluck and power combo, sonic booms mixed in with piano balladry, are the ideal prologue for the light and liveliness of the night.

The equally plucky yet much lower key acoustics of Elyar Fox aren't quite as winning, but they're more than enough for an audience wholly keen on losing themselves in the steadily enhancing party atmospherics. Better is local girl Leah McFall of The Voice fame: her strong, piercingly clear and determinedly fresh vocals ring true in this cauldron of noise. With each act having no more than a handful of songs, tonight is as much about having fun as making it count: and McFall takes this fully on board.

As does Fuse ODG. His chantable refrains and easily clappable rhythms, adorned in spotlights of many colours, cement already high spirits. It is like MTV Crashes all over again.

A succession of significantly quieter boyband anthems from Hometown pave the way for the biggest surprise of the evening following the interval. Humble as a speaker, ebullient as a singer, the refreshingly contradictory Paloma Faith is a breath of fresh air, with enough charisma, jazz and soulfulness to all too briefly capture local hearts. By contrast, the meek yet charming Alexa Goddard struts teasingly like a little songbird, daring watchers to be sucked in. Hardly a dominant presence, she nonetheless gers by on goodwill, gumption and a dash of jollity.

The stage is then set for Neon Jungle to bring back the booms before Sigma and McBusted's grand finale bring the curtain down excitably. Like a selection box of popular chocolates, you mostly know what you're going to get at the Jingle Ball, but the event is no less enjoyable for it.

(The original version of this review was published in the Belfast Telegraph on Tuesday December 9, 2014. It can be read here.)