Crowd surfing and pensioners dancing on people’s shoulders weren’t particularly high on my list of expectations for a James Blunt concert.
To be blunt (sorry, I couldn’t resist), I didn’t have many expectations at all.
My only real knowledge of the enigmatic artist was the ubiquitous You’re Beautiful and his unique ability to divide opinion - on the one hand he’s been dubbed the most hated man in pop by Radio 1 and on the other he’s sold 20 million albums around the world.
But you know what, when the former-army-captain-come-soft-rocker brought his Moon Landing tour to a rain-soaked Hoghton Tower on Friday to kick off St Catherine’s Hospice’s Symphony At the Tower, he managed to defy expectations (or lack thereof) and win over even the most dubious listener with his toe-tapping tunes and self-deprecating banter.
From the moment he landed on stage, dressed in a Ghostbusters-style boiler suit, he had the faithful in sway. Songs So Far Gone and Billy ( I’d never heard of them either) kicked things off before hit Wisemen from his breakthrough Back To Bedlam had the 3,000-strong crowd singing in unison.
His banter between songs was excellent. (It’s easy to see how he’s become a Twitter sensation over the past year hitting back at trolls with witty put downs).
On Friday, he joked about most men in the crowd having been dragged along and poked fun at his own height (apparently in the army his stature earned him the nickname ‘weener’).
Then there was the crowd surfing, which even inspired a 70-odd-year-old to climb up on the shoulders of her companion.
Back on stage You’re Beautiful, the 2005 hit that catapulted Blunt to superstardom, naturally got the biggest reaction, but hits So Long Jimmy and recent single Bonfire Heart also got the crowd jumping.
The whole show was slick, backed by a tight band and a decent light show.
His music will never be ground breaking but, you know what, it’s good, toe-tapping fun and sometimes that’s more than enough.
For more photos from Hoghton Tower, see the pull-out from Page 21 today and also this Saturday’s paper.