Olly Murs has come a long way since auditioning for the X Factor eight years ago but at Thetford Forest on Friday night he proved he is the same cheeky chap we all fell for on television.
A large video screen added to the sell-out crowd’s excitement by counting down the seconds before the pop star’s arrival on stage, which saw him open with You Don’t Know Love, the lead single from his fifth studio album, 24 Hrs.
What followed was 90 minutes of unadulterated fun, with Murs sending many of the single women in the crowd, and those with husbands at home who were ‘single for this gig’, into a frenzy with his suggestive dance moves, gyrating hips and unabashed flirtation.
Revealing that he had been single for two years, Murs received a rapturous applause as he announced that he was looking for love in Thetford after failing in Essex and Yorkshire.
Apparently we have his aunt and uncle to thank for putting the town on his radar as they bike in the forest ‘all the time’ and had been saying for years that he should visit.
They were in Friday’s audience, along with his mum, who pointed out in the latter stages of the show that he had ripped the front of his trousers, a wardrobe faux pas which seemed to amuse Murs as much as his fans as he allowed a camera to take a close up shot to display on stage.
Joined by three backing singers and a fantastic seven-piece band, Murs, a natural entertainer, moved easily from hits like Up, Heart Skips a Beat, Troublemaker and Dance With Me Tonight to a medley of decades-old covers including That’s the Way (I Like It), Never Too Much and This Is How We Do It, returning to the 90s later for Freed From Desire.
He dedicated Dear Darlin’ to everyone affected by the recent tragedies in Manchester and London, and gave a heartfelt thanks to the staff and emergency services for ensuring the safety of all those at the High Lodge gig and to parents in the audience for overcoming any anxieties they may have had about allowing their children to attend the concert.
It is clear his X Factor days are never far from his mind and, as well as parodying Simon Cowell phrases like ‘I didn’t like it, I loved it’, Murs made a point of thanking fans for voting for him in the competition time and time again.
Fellow Essex X Factor star Louisa Johnson did a fantastic job opening for him, impressing the crowd with covers of Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself and Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You in addition to songs like Bad Habit, Best Behaviour, Tears and Weak, returning later to duet with Murs on their new single, Unpredictable.
Murs ended the night with Years & Years and in reminding fans to ‘stay cheeky and keep smiling’ he finally answered their ‘off, off, off’ chants by tearing open his shirt.
His obvious enjoyment on stage made this a fun night out and, with the predicted rain showers not falling until after the show had finished, I found myself believing that he had some how even managed to charm the weather.