by / January 12th, 2011 /

JLS – O2, Dublin

Sorry, did we miss something? Last time we took any serious notice of JLS, they were about to try and launch a career based on a stint on the X-Factor and were, we assumed, destined to follow most who had attempted such a feat down a depressing path. Yet here we are, two years later, and not only are JLS still around but are selling out the O2 with apparent ease – although you do get the sense that for every pair of tickets sold tonight, one has gone to an accompanying parent how would quite possibly be somewhere, indeed anywhere, else. The atmosphere is that of a pantomime, with kids wearing flashing bunny ears and struggling to eat a packet of sweets while wielding a giant JLS foam finger. Welcome to pop world.

After a fairly hapless R&B support and a series of scream inducing videos, it’s time for the main event. A good arena show needs a spectacular opening and JLS certainly deliver, appearing from behind the curtain in a flying BMW that wends its way out across the audience, turns and heads back to land on the stage. Unfortunately this means that they spend the last quarter of their song trying to connect with the crowd via the wing mirrors but that is of no matter, so high are the levels of excitement. The four could easily just stand on stage for two hours, waving and preening, and no-one here would be any less hysterical. To their credit, however, JLS do at least try and put on a show, although how much of a live event it is is up for debate. There are no musicians, just backing tracks, and those harmony vocals sound awfully pristine. Put it this way, it’s the first gig we’ve ever been to where there is no sign of a sound desk in front of the stage.

So what you get is basically a glorified PA, with the obligatory dancers and extra whistles and bells. Such is the nature of their journey here that it could have been anybody up there, while JLS found themselves trudging round dingy night spots. They’re certainly not brimming with personality, delivering their carefully scripted lines well enough but hardly the stuff of genuine pop stars. It’s those lines that perhaps trouble us the most, focusing again on the gap exists between grown up acts and their audience. There is plenty of talk of sexy Irish ladies, of going back to Aston’s hotel room, of giving the girls what they need. Take into consideration the fact that most of the ‘girls’ here are barely in their teens and forgive us if we don’t join in the screaming that greats every innuendo.

As for the music, perhaps JLS’ biggest problem is that – for a pop band – their songs aren’t all that good. Much of the set is filled with formulaic R&B tinged, inoffensive but unmemorable tunes but, like many before, their good moments are really good. ‘Beat Again’ and ‘One Shot’ are a class above the rest and they do the ballad thing quite well on occasion. The show peaks when a walkway is lowered from the ceiling, and they sing a few numbers suspended above the adoring throng, ending with ‘Love You More’, perhaps the closest they’ve come to a genuine cross over moment. If they’d left there it would have been fine, but the show stumbles on with a Backstreet Boys / NSYNC medley and a dancing robot. The parents around the arena start to shift in their seats and even the previously excitable kids start to wane, until one of the band takes his top off and then we’re off again. Such is the lull in energy though that when they encore with ‘Everybody In Love’, certainly their finest moment to date, even the raining confetti can’t really save the moment. With it JLS are gone, perhaps never to return on this scale. Come this time next year, it could well be a different set of faces up there, telling us that we’ve been the best audience of the tour and that we are the people who put them where they are. The song, however, will most probably remain the same.

  • Danielle

    The best concert I have ever being to. Brilliant night.

  • Sam

    Haha sorry but that’s such a biased report clearly JLS have haters and obviously no one in music is actually successful unless if they have haters! Just prove to show haters can keep hating but JLS are focsed on the majorty true fans out there.. Likewise with any musicians! And I been to this conert and it’s AMAZING the best by far! Cut the rubbish

  • Libby

    sorry but JLS are amazing they can actually sing brilliantly unlike all the others who cannot sing live at all!
    JLS ftw!

  • Ciaran Gaynor

    Re: JLS’ (possibly) inappropriate references to taking Irish ladies back to Aston’s room and giving them “what they need” (and we all know what he means by THAT, don’t we readers – a nice hot water bottle and a light snack. And does one detect the faint whiff of Horlicks?)… One of the most striking things about Take That concerts in the 90s was the content of the fans’ homemade banners. “I WANT MARK TO DO ME UP THE BUM 4 EVA!” “ROBBIE MAKE ME PREGNANT PLZ!” “DO IT TO ME ON THE BATHROOM FLOOR JASON!” Very suspect of course, but all part of the “fun”. You don’t get that with Meat Loaf.

  • In my opinion this was a very biased report. They have worked incredibly hard to get to where they are and are incredible people who always have time for fans and strive to do their best. I was at the very front for this concert and it was incredible. I would like to ask are you sure you were at the right concert? They put on a great show, interacted with the crowd and the songs are amazing. You state there was no sound desk at the front but however from my position at the barrier I could see the desk. And finally they will be around for many years to come!

  • Laura

    What the hell? Biased muchhh! They are amazing and so are their songs:D

  • I’ve never been able to understand how anyone can defend a ‘live’ performance from a group that doesn’t actually perform live. That’s not a concert, and it’s nothing to do with ‘taste’ or ‘haters’ at all, plenty of pop bands can perform live. It’s plain disrespectful of JLS, and only the kind of band that’s playing predominantly to a very young and inexperienced concert-going audience would get away with it.

    And the above still applies for me even if they were singing (but not doing anything else) live. How much will you folks really pay for karaoke and some stupid stage props?

    As for the sexual stuff… they probably know how wrong it is, but then they are making a career out of being a very young crowds fantasy, so perhaps they have to play off it. Makes me cringe, though.

  • Also, on the accusations of bias:

    Phil’s a well respected music writer who wouldn’t go in with an agenda (trust me, I know him, he’s very straight up in his opinions, and he wouldn’t have decided them before he went in).

    The rest of you are JLS fans.

    It’s pretty clear where the bias lies, and it’s not with Phil. Be fair.

  • Nicole

    ah yahs seriously need te geh a life der a group ov lads havin a bit of banter with the crowd its called gettin the crowd goin! as if other bands have never done it! if ye hate dem its ur own choice but personally i think dah the concert was an excellent performance and seen nothin rong with it!

  • Nicole

    and sorry but wa band or singer dosent tell everybody that dey are their favourite audience?

  • Linzi

    Went to the show in Sheffield and to be honest, JLS didn’t try to put on a show, what they did was put on a fantastic show. The energy and effort the boys put in didn’t ‘lull’ at all. The vocals were amazing as they usually are when they perform LIVE. The arena was full to capacity with children, teenagers, women and men, who from where i was seated, all had an amazing night. I’m glad this was my childrens first concert because it was definately a memorable one for them.

  • See that’s the thing, Linzi, a band that doesn’t do anything but sing their vocals live isn’t live at all, really. Proper bands who write their own music get embarrassed when TV shows occasionally make them mime. And even the live vocals seem to be under dispute. Unless you consider watching Karaoke to be a live experience, this wasn’t one.

  • Linzi

    Plenty of artists use backing tracks instead of a live band, possibly not a good thing, but for a first time performing an arena tour the boys put on a very good show. Everyone has different taste in music and want different things from a concert, but for me I wanted myself and my children to have an enjoyable and memorable night and that is what was had.

  • I take no issue with that at all Linzi, I’m genuinely glad you enjoyed it. Music like this has its place. It’s just proclaiming it to the high heavens and getting annoyed when a music reviewer points out its very obvious flaws (which to be fair wasn’t so much you) is a bit much, as they are so very apparent. Their fans should have the perspective – agree with Phil or not – to see that many of the points her makes on musicianship in his article are absolutely correct. Let’s face it, these guys aren’t even musicians, they’re singers who have everything but the vocals done for them, from the backing music to the songwriting and probably even the on-stage wardrobe.

    And for the record, bands that use backing tracks, especially nothing but backing tracks, almost invariable get panned in live reviews, for the simple reason that what the audience is hearing is a bit of a con. However good the songs sounds, you might as well be listening to the CD in the most part. I don’t know how much this cost, and if those who went enjoyed it, great, but in my opinion a concert that in all likelihood cost the best part of 50 Euro per person in a 10,000 plus capacity arena (in other words was worth half a million Euro plus to someone – probably more, actually, as I know I’m underestimating the size of the place) should at the very least involve some actual live music.

  • Linzi

    They possibly should have had live music, but pretty much every person who paid the £30 for a ticket, did so knowing that JLS wouldn’t be playing instruments, but would be putting on a massive performance, which at the end of the day is what the fans wanted to see.

  • Ciaran Gaynor

    Personally, I think it’s quite right and completely healthy that the fans are up in arms about their favourite band receiving a mildly dismissive review – that’s the burning passion of pop fandom for you. Surely only the most sociopathic pop fan would scream their head off at a concert and then read a slightly disparaging review and say “fair enough, you’ve made some salient points”. As a writer I’m sure Phil’s review is fair of course, but pop music inspires passion and hysteria in those people who really, really love it. And JLS fans will know all about that.

    Let’s face it, these people may not have a view on the merits of this year’s Choice Music Prize shortlist, but they will know everything there is to know about JLS. They know their middle names, they know where they live, they know what their favourite sandwich filling is, they know their mothers’ maiden names, they know minute details about the band’s shagging activities. The CIA and MI5 have nothing on this lot.

    The traditional music press stance on teenybop bands has been that the teenage girls who comprise their audience are too hormonal, too young and too frankly female to realise that actually they are just being exploited. This is bollocks. These fans soak up all of the implicit lust which is latent in bands like JLS (boybands have, from day one, been marketed at young girls and gay men – fact!), they thrive off the feral animal sexuality of their idols, and they KNOW.

    Have you ever heard 10,000 girls screaming in unison by the way? It’s like the sound of two jet airliners taking off in each ear. It’s like having barbed wire forced through your head like dental floss.

  • sjb

    Just to add James, they did write the majority of the tracks themselves and to be honest who gives a flying feck that they didnt have a live band playing the music for them!? To be honest i think that would have spoilt the atmosphere of the night. They were there to put in a performance, and they did that brilliantly. They are a lovely bunch of lads, they sing well live, they dance well and they put on a show to please their audience, which is what people brought the tickets for.

  • Jane

    Ha you guys were obviously at a different concert to me !! It was the best concert that has hot the o2 in a long time!! They were absolutely incredible!! As well as being amazing singers they are also incredible dancers,,! They are one of the acts around today that do actually connect with their audience and so thankful for their support. And reference to age? I’m 18 and was in the standing area and there wasn’t a person under 15 . If You guys can’t see an amazing band when there rite in front of you there’s obviously something wrong with you.