Gig review Little Mix and Jessarae at First Direct Arena, Leeds

Little Mix
Little Mix
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There’s something grittily resilient about the way Little Mix have outlasted all their talent show peers.

Formed by committee on The X Factor, they’ve long since slipped the shackles of reality television and eclipsed practically every other act in terms of commercial longevity, barring Olly Murs. It’s not hard to pinpoint why; foursome Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall’s sugared-up sass shtick makes them ideal champions for the rebellious tween-and-teen clique, with a herculean devotion to colourfully luminescent self-confidence and tales of everlasting friendship.

Their latest jaunt– The Glory Days Tour – is their biggest yet. The first of three performances at Leeds’s First Direct Arena is a kid-friendly afternoon matinee; the crowd is mostly screaming primary schoolers. Support comes from LA singer/songwriter Jessarae, whose anthemic AOR fare is dispatched with a brio that belies his young age. Sandwiched into a short attention-diverting spot before the main attraction, he plays recent cuts Fishbowl and Stand in the Rain to a warm, if distracted reception; a promising omen ahead of his imminent debut album next year.

There is clearly only one party-starter though and Little Mix oblige. Entering to the industrial sub-woofer-bass-drop of Power, they cheerfully pilfer sounds from influences and peers with a brazenness matched by their Day-Glo staging; enough faux-leather outfits abound that even Judas Priest’s Rob Halford would raise an eyebrow. Wings oozes saucy nineties-R&B; Nothing Else Matters is all widescreen nu-disco new wave; No More Sad Songs leaps unashamedly on the tropical house bandwagon. With no physical band to flesh out the pre-tracked music and occasional vocal, it feels periodically like an amped-up end-of-year karaoke disco.

But the quartet are nothing if not sincere, and six years at the top has given them enough copper-bottomed chart-troublers to keep fans hooked. When they climb aboard a gantry that extends into the tiered seating to sing spine-prickling ballad Secret Love Song, Pt. II, they move the young girls in front of them to devotional tears. Glittering confetti cannons burst forth to joyous shrieks during big, shiny bangers like Touch, amid snazzy dance routines and retina-searing production.

As they finish on piledriving kiss-off anthem Shout Out to My Ex, wild, gleeful pogoing breaks out en-masse, even amongst the parents.

By the homogenised standards to which they hold themselves, Little Mix’s live prowess can only be called high-end pop entertainment; a grandiose, glossy, girl-power spectacle set to maximum neon.

Nick Hodgson is to release his first solo album in January.

Music interview – Nick Hodgson: ‘I am essentially a musician – whether it’s playing Elland Road or playing some pub, I just love it’