Brian McFadden - Manchester Apollo - 2.6.05

To be honest, it's not the best of starts. The Apollo is half full and of those that are here it's more of a nationalistic pride ting for their Irish Son. You sense that along the way Brian's lost a lot of fans with the gossip column scandal of the Kerry / Delta situation or maybe it's just us, but Brian's an advert for why the Atkins diet doesn't work for everyone. In his Bryan Westlife days he was easily the best looking and now with a carb free diet he looks like the sort of dishevelled vagabond who works cash in hand up th' farm in Emmerdale.

In the past you accuse Brian of wearing his heart on his sleeve more readily than Robbie Williams with a video camera. For the fans it's easy to spot the Kerry song, the Delta song and the Molly song, but on the new songs you feel the record company have suggested something more upbeat and radio friendly. You can put money on it that they weren't thinking of a low rent pop version of the Pogues that is "Out Of The Game". "Up & Down" is much better if a touch middle of the road in the Del Amitri / Teenage Fanclub sense of the phrase.

It's to his credit that he hasn't completely turned his back on the Westlife years. "Flying Without Wings" is rearranged as a Nickelback style acoustic rocker, "World Of Our Own" remains faithful to the original while the closing "Uptown Girl" still packs a punch. But why no "Bop Bop Baby", the most throwaway but enjoyable moment of his time in Westlife.

The ballads "Be Good To Your Woman", "Demons" and the Delta Goodrem duet "Almost Here" are extremely touching, the latter the audience replacing Delta's part with word perfect backing vocals after he teases us with the promise he was to ring her up on-stage Bono style. "Irish Son" on record sounds like a bona-fide anthem, live it sounds like a ramshackle indie band have stormed the building and it's only McFadden's vocal melody that signify he's playing the best song of his career so far. "Lose Lose Situation" is for the boys and again returning to those Irish influences with the Pogues meeting the Thrills.

By the end it's only an atrocious version of "Mustang Sally" that disappoints, and that's almost rescued by a Darkness style circle of glory through the crowd. In a more intimate venue this could have been a great show, but it seems that both our and Brian's expectations were too high. Next time you're in Manchester Brian, just book the Academy, throw in a few more uptempo tracks and you'll have a great show on your hands

Alex McCann

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