REVIEW: Scouting For Girls, O2 Academy, Newcastle

Scouting For Girls at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.
Scouting For Girls at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.
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Scouting For Girls entertained a rapturous audience with a well-received set of vanilla pop numbers and teen-oriented cheese.

Playing all the hits from their late '00s heyday, vocalist Roy Stride quipped that it's "impossible to have a bad gig in Newcastle", and the response of a near sell-out crowd suggested a night to remember for their adoring fans.

Scouting For Girls at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Scouting For Girls at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Roy and the band pulled out every stop to get the audience involved, initiating a singalong to every classic tune and frequently reprising to lap up the electric atmosphere within the Academy.

It was one of the loudest crowds of the year at the venue - despite the relatively mundane nature of the music - thanks to a young, teen audience more befitting the concert of an in-vogue boy band than a pop-rock group that had their last hit in 2011.

New music also featured, including songs from latest album Still Thinking About You, but the response was lesser for such material as the loudest cheers were instead reserved for She's So Lovely, Heartbeat and the band's sole number-one single This Ain't a Love Song.

Contemporary and critical interest in the show was reserved for opener Mike Dignam, a hotly-tipped singer-songwriter from Manchester who's due to headline Newcastle's Think Tank? in April.

Scouting For Girls at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Scouting For Girls at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Alone on stage with a kick drum at his foot and a guitar in his grasp, he impressed with a rockier sound than the headliners, getting fans on-board through political remarks in opposition to military action in Syria and a sense of humour in promoting his CD.

The use of the sole drum as percussion for all of his songs proved repetitive, but he nonetheless displayed enough swagger to indicate he could be one to look out for when he visits the region again next year.

Scouting For Girls first broke into the public consciousness in 2007, as part of a wave of pop-rock bands including The Kooks and The Hoosiers, of which they have proven to be one of the most enduring and successful.

Their self-titled debut and second album Everybody Wants to Be on TV spawned hit after hit, but proved to be their zenith, and recent offerings have garnered little in the way of mainstream exposure or critical acclaim.

Scouting For Girls at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Scouting For Girls at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Vocalist Stride has instead turned his attentions to other artists, producing and writing for One Direction, 5 Seconds of Summer and other pop heavyweights.

But the band's penchant for putting on a pop spectacle remains undiminished, and their hits timeless to a generation that grew up with them.

They opened the show with a mixture of old and new, beginning with album track Bad Superman before well-received classics Heartbeat and Famous.

Roy brought out a selfie stick for the latter, a much-maligned gadget that was put to innovative use as he filmed the audience and himself while performing the song.

Scouting For Girls at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Scouting For Girls at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

It was one of a number of moments during which it was apparent the band and their management have sought to adapt to the times and remain relevant as a teen-targeted pop band, which - judging by the demographic in attendance - has succeeded.

It helps that their brand of pop-rock is particularly sanitised and parent-friendly, dealing with innocent subject matter including young crushes, as in Michaela Strachan, and "boys at school", in the case of Posh Girls.

There was a glimpse of manufactured dissent midway through, as Roy introduced 1+1 as a much-demanded addition to the setlist that had been removed from their live shows by the band's management.

It was, or so the story goes, too heavy - and Roy recorded video of the audience again to allegedly prove that a Scouting For Girls crowd "know how to rock".

It was all quite cheesy, as was much of the crowd engagement, playing off tropes too worn for most - but it worked with their music, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Elvis Ain't Dead, This Ain't a Love Song and a cover of Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer formed part of the home run prior to the encore, and were all well-received.

Mike Dignam supported Scouting For Girls at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Mike Dignam supported Scouting For Girls at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The encore itself included Christmas In The Air (Tonight), an original from their new album that was one of the best-received new songs due to the time of year.

It all went down a storm and, as one of the loudest shows of the year, was brought to a close by She's So Lovely, it seemed to be a victory for music as entertainment as opposed to art, and a memorable evening for the euphoric audience.

Mike Dignam on stage at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Mike Dignam on stage at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.