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Joe McElderry

Venue: Customs House
Town: South Shields
Date: 22/10/16

South Shields' own X Factor winner, Joe McElderry and the town's beloved Customs HOuse Theatre, have a long standing relationship. After opening his Northern Lights Tour here in August, it is great that he has returned for three shows over a weekend.

I was initially surprised by the age demographic of his audience, but you can't fault the enthusiasm of his fans, with flashing earrings and enough lights to adorn a Christmas tree, they certainly carried out Joe's request that we all have lots of fun.

Despite his success, Joe has remained completely grounded. It is obvious for all to see that what you see on stage is way more than just a flicker of the real Joe. His banter, his humour and his infectious smile, had the entire audience in the palm of his hand from the moment he walked out on stage. There is no doubt that he loves what he does; he talked at length about how he loved that acoustic shows, especially here, as he can see and really connect with the audience. He must have a real sense here of being home and among friends; he certainly gives his audience the feeling of being in a friend's living room whilst he performs.

I first saw him perform several years ago, at Sage, Gateshead, when he performed two songs with Americana singer songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman. He had recorded two of her songs and hearing them sing them together was a brilliant experience. Then, a couple of years ago, I attended his performance at Bents Park. This was a great event, especially as he was in his hometown; however, there was something very special about seeing him in such an intimate venue, which I love, in his hometown.

Over he course of two and a half hours, Joe. astounded me at the versatility of his voice and e sheer variety of songs he will undertake. introducing us to his Live Lounge, we were treated to some unexpected covers, such as Sky Full of Stars, Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, More Than Words and Every Little Thing and Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, illustrated his impressive ability to make a song his on, whilst remaining true to the original. I also find it is hard not to respect an artist who clearly loved the music of others.

He delivered a range of his known songs, including wonderful performances of of Skyscraper, which was full of emotion and Someone Wake Me Up. I was at a play here the other night and it seems being in the right place at the right time is an ongoing theme!

A new song written by the man behind The Spice Girls, Dancing Under The Sun, showed real radio hit promise. The first song he ever wrote, The Loudest Cry, was met with huge applause.

Having been mesmerised by Joe's performance as Joseph during his recent tour with the musical, I was delighted that he performed Close Every Door To Me and Any Dream Will Do. During the later he asked us to be his choir and I don't think anyone in the room didn't have fun, singing the echo back to him. He delivers the songs with such intensity, he becomes Joseph, so that even out of the context of the musical, the songs make perfect sense.

Following on From this, he took everyone's breath away with an exquisite rendition of I Dreamed a Dream. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up when he reached that note. Likewise, when he took us to Italy with E Penso a Te. Both earned him standing ovations.

Joe's Jukebox allows audience requests for songs from albums or the charts. This segment more than demonstrates how laid back he is and how talented his band are, playing songs at a second's notice. Some of the requests included Mr Bojangles, I've Had The Time of My Life and No Regrets. Don't Stop Believing, Open Arms, Farenheit, Joanna and Dance With My Father. Evidently I'm not the only one who loves his version of the latter.

All too soon a wonderful night of fun, laughter and of course, music, was over, as he asked us to sing The Climb with him. I suspect when he embarked upon his climb, he had no idea he would be where he is now, having the experiences he is having.

The beauty is that for two hours, in a special building near the River Tyne, we were all in the right place at the right time, together. I am already looking forward to him returning in 2018.

Helen Mitchell

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