Smash Hits Tour 2001 - Manchester M.E.N - 1.12.01

Each year it rolls into town...bigger and better than the previous year. Its the Pop Fest known as the Smash Hits Tour were talking about of course and for the kids its an institution. Some may come and some may go but Smash Hits is still there as strong as ever knocking its second rate imitators out of the way.

Kicking off things is that strange woman otherwise known as Geri Halliwell. As Nicki Chapman might comment on Pop Idols "I liked that performance" and that's where Geri's forte is on the stage. She's never been known for her vocal ability and there's always that element of waiting for her to fall but you can guarantee Geri will never be playing the likes of Brannigans after her blinding performance of "Its Raining Men". Which is what you could easily see the likes of Ms Bunton doing after the TV presenters jobs have dried up.

Smash Hits has always brought us the freshest new acts and tonight isn't any different. The ultimate highlight is the simply poptastic Kaci. With Britney on the slide its only natural that someone has to take her place but don't you ever call Kaci another pop puppet. Apart from the new single "I Think I Love You", which is performed with such youthful abandon you can't help but be taken in by her charms, she writes all of her own material. Better looking than Britney, Better Songs than Britney - what more can you say!!! Also worth a mention is ex-Popstars contestant Warren Stacey. He's come from what simply amounted to a glorified talent show to get signed to one of the most credible record label Def Jam. He's already looking to be one of the serious contenders for the MOBO's next year so if you get the chance check him out on the support slots with O-Town

The Best New Tour Act award is a bit of a farce. On one hand you've got a bunch of pseudo religious maniacs called Blessed who could be offensive if they weren't so damn laughable. On the other hand you've got three good looking guys called 3SL who also happen to be related to Lisa from Steps. I'll leave it up to you to guess which one won but  I will say that Reel won it last year so it doesn't stand for much.

After a short interval its time for my personal highlight and one of the most under-rated pop bands out there right now, A1!!!! Sadly this roadshow format only allows the guys to sing to DAT tapes but even tonight they can't fail. With a new look and new direction with "Caught In The Middle" the guys are proving that anything Noel Gallagher says can generally be taken with a pinch of salt. Of course we still have to listen to the Travesty that is the cover of "Take On Me" but lets face it the kids love it and hopefully they'll hear the original one day and realize their mistake.

Tonight its hard to believe that its been less than a year since Blue first hit the scene. Local lad Simon works the crowd and in terms of pure hysteria these guys really blew the roof off. "All Rise", "If You Come Back" and "Too Close" seem like old friends and the stadium tour looks set to be one of the highlights of 2002. Samantha Mumba misses the point when she fails to perform the new single "Lately" which isn't really made up for with the limp "Baby, Come On Over". Personally I'd rather not have had Westlife closing the show but that's probably down to the fact that they seem to play Manchester every other week of late. It was nice, it didn't move me and to honest the guys were probably more interested in Brian's wedding than actually performing. Rumours are flying round that the guys are to split after the forthcoming tour and maybe its a good thing...musically they never really reached the potential of those classic early singles.

So that's its. Another year. Another line up. We'll be there down the front next year...see you there!!!

Alex McCann