The original Pop Idol still has the X Factor. Since winning Pop Idol in 2002 Will Young has released seven studio albums, the most recent of which – Lexicon – was released in June of this year, and Will is on tour again, promoting it.
Playing a sold-out show at St David’s Hall in Cardiff to an adoring crowd, rather than heavily plugging the new album Will he chose a selection of hits from his extensive back catalogue, including Leave Right Now and Evergreen, and notably several from his perhaps most accomplished album, Echoes. Such is the number of hits Will has under his (chunky black) belt that at one point he even played a medley in order to fit them in. Particular highlights were performances of Friday’s Child, Grace and Switch It On.
However, this was not just a greatest hits show; Will also performed several covers of classics, demonstrating his ability to present the material of others in a fresh light. This included his version of The Doors’ Light My Fire which wowed the audience of Pop Idol if apparently not Simon Cowell himself( who professed he didn’t get it), but also the Beatles’ Golden Slumbers and, unexpectedly and delightfully, Kate Bush’s Running up That Hill (A Deal With God), which he melded with his Losing Myself. Unfortunately, he didn’t perform the Buzzcocks’ Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve), a highlight of his acclaimed Summer Covers EP of 2016. Of course, with such a large back catalogue some songs had to be left out, but it was a shame that Will, a master conveyer of songs of yearning and unrequited love, did not perform All the Songs and Dare.
For such an adept showman and evident carer of the visual aspect of his work, the stage set for the show was extremely stripped down. The band were placed atop scaffolding on different levels, which Will circled and climbed up and leapt between with glee. The rear of the stage of St David’s Hall was the plain backing. Will himself was austere in simple black T shirt, cargo pants and boots. This stripped-down aesthetic could however have great power, for example when Will performed on a plank supported by two wooden ladders. Indeed, it would be wonderful to see Will sing in a more intimate setting with stripped back sound, to let his voice take centre stage more often. The austere look did get replaced towards the end of the show, when a backdrop of the prow of a ship emerged and Will performed dressed in white as Captain, surrounded by the crests of waves. On ground level with him were his wonderful female backing singers, with whom he joined in slick synchronised moves, making one wish that he had been able to complete his Strictly Come Dancing journey. Indeed, given Will’s obvious rapport and ease with his audience he would make a wonderful host of the dancing competition, having the essential warmth and quick wittedness.
Will has many strings to his bow. Singer, actor, author and broadcaster, he has a gift for communication in many forms. Notable achievements are his podcast Homo Sapiens (with Chris Sweeney), his award-winning performance as the MC in Cabaret and his remarkably frank autobiography Funny Peculiar. He is also a prolific campaigner and mentor, for instance championing mental health and demonstrating a particular concern for young people. It was his gift for communication that endeared him to the public in the first place. He is a bona fide national treasure. Catch him while you can; his tour continues until 24th November.