Kelly Clarkson - Manchester Apollo - 17.2.06

If you have problems trying to remember anyone apart from Will Young and Girls Aloud of the British Reality Pop Phenomena, then trying to remember the American Idol contestants is nigh on impossible. Kelly Clarkson's career has blossomed whereas Fantasia and Ruben for all their success in America has not translated across the Atlantic and this show at the Apollo marks the first of two European legs, with Arena dates a month later which were announced due to the unprecedented success of this by comparison short theatre tour.

In many ways the differences are clear between UK pop and US pop when you compare opening act The Faders to Clarkson. In the US they would have been thrown out before it got to the releasing stage, in the UK (with a little help from the fact one of them is Midge Ure's daughter) they're taken as the best of UK female pop punk.

What's immediately clear from the moment Clarkson walks on stage is how far removed she is from the pop stereotype. Far from the waif's we come to expect Clarkson is not so much chunky, but her calves would kill with one swift kick. Starting off with the song that kick-started her career, "Miss Independent", it sets out the stall for what's to come over the next hour and fifteen minutes with a fusion of rock, soul and occasional hip-hop beats which when it hit's the mark does so which such energy you can't help but be drawn in, and at it's worst when it's not so much middle of the road but just plain lazy songwriting.

"I Hate Myself For Losing You" is a refreshingly honest tune lyrically and one of her favourites off the new album, despite the fact she hated it at first. "The Troubled Lovers" from the soundtracks of "Love Actually" is one of those heart wrenching ballads, but it fails into insignificance next to her uber-ballad "Because Of You".

Vocally there are few that can compete with Kelly Clarkson right now and although she doesn't go for the vocal histrionics of Joss Stone there's a real emotive talent here. It's best displayed on a cover of Annie Lennox's "Why", which few singers would have the confidence to tackle but tonight it has the emotional resonance of Lennox's performance at Live 8.

Ending on two classic singles "Behind These Hazel Eyes" and "Since You Been Gone" she proves why she is the only American Idol we really care about. A new song "Come Here" aired earlier also shows that there's a longevity and a career that should set her up to much more than just the standard three albums, greatest hits and then out.

Alex McCann

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