I saw JLS at Leeds First Direct Arena and there was ear-shattering screams, tears and a lot of thrusting
and live on Freeview channel 276
They broke the hearts of teenage girls all over the nation when they announced they had split up in 2013. Now JLS are back together and touring again - and those teenagers, like me, are now in their mid-to-late 20s.
While I’m familiar with all of their big hits, I wasn’t a true JLS fangirl in their heyday, but it was a time I look back on fondly - running to the TV to watch X-Factor every Saturday and swapping tunes via bluetooth on my Samsung flip phone.
It’s hard to believe it was 15 years ago that JLS shot to fame, after coming second to Alexander Burke in the long-running ITV show.
A sultry performance from pop star SHAB
Kicking off the night with a sizzling performance was Iranian-American mega-pop-star-in-the-making, SHAB. She’s fresh off the back of her first big hit, VOODOO, a collaboration with hip-hop legend Fat Joe over a remake of his Lean Back beat with Terror Squad, and she oozed confidence.
Strutting out onto the stage with two cat-suit-wearing backing dancers, she enchanted the crowd with her performances and up-beat dance numbers. My friend likened it to a Eurovision performance and she wasn’t wrong - it was unapologetically and deliciously pop.
SHAB has an inspiring story. A refugee who fled to Germany alone to live with her sister during the Iranian revolution, aged just eight years old, she later moved to America at 14, learning English while working three jobs.
With rising YouTube views and Spotify streams, I expect there’s even bigger things ahead for this pop star - who did a brilliant job of warming up the crowd, along with her cowboy-hat-wearing guitarist, pianist AND hype man who deserves a big shout out.
Next up was Tinchy Stryder who treated us to all his hits of the 2010s - Spaceship, Never Leave You, In My System, Game Over and of course Number 1 with N-Dubz. The crowd were on their feet by the end and it was the perfect warm-up to what was going to be a night of pure nostalgia.
Yes, JB treated us to the line from the infamous meme and it was probably the highlight of my evening - I was in stitches. There were so many random twists and turns to the performance that kept everyone on their feet and you could tell JLS were just having fun with this tour.
Coming out on stage to Eyes Wide Shut, everyone was dancing within seconds - including a mum-and-daughter duo in front of us who were having the absolute time of their lives. We were treated to Hottest Girl In The World, Day One mixed with their cover of Bruno Mars’ Finesse, and hit after hit that I’d forgotten about - and surprisingly still knew the lyrics too.
There was a LOT of thrusting, including a section where they danced with canes and JB nearly took someone’s eye out in the front row, and at one point four lucky ladies were plonked on stage and treated to a personal serenade.
There was fire, there was confetti, there were perfectly-synced dance routines and Aston’s famous backflips - it was delightfully cheesy and as over-the-top as everyone wanted.
Around halfway through the set, Aston and Marvin put down their microphones to have a DJ battle - playing a megamix that started with their songs, then moved onto hit after hit from the late 2000s/2010s.
It was a little bizarre but they knew their crowd down to a T, and everyone was dancing and screaming along to Justin Bieber, Macklemore, Dizzie Rascal and Rihanna (Marvin joked that JLS sang Umbrella better than the Bajan megastar).
Aston enjoyed teasing the crowd that Manchester was louder, producing eardrum-shattering screams, and after a third outfit change it was time for the encore. Saving their biggest hits until last, everyone was singing along to Beat Again at the top of their lungs and the final song of Everybody In Love reduced some of the ladies to tears.
After another round of screams when Aston removed his top as he departed the stage, it was the end of a brilliantly cheesy night of throwback anthems. JLS might have just gained another fangirl.