Gig Review: JLS at Motorpoint Arena

Words: Maddie Dinnage
Photos: Martin Borrett
Friday 27 October 2023
reading time: min, words

Multi-award-winning four-piece JLS have a multitude of musical accolades under their belts. Since placing second on The X Factor in 2008, the band have sold over six million records, and released four multi-platinum albums - not to mention the die-hard fanbase they have built over the years. After splitting at the height of their success, JLS are back once again for a greatest hits tour, delivering performances teeming with noughties nostalgia….

The very first CD I ever received was JLS’ self-titled debut record, which I played religiously on my hot pink boombox. Last night at Motorpoint Arena, I was eight years old once again, singing along to the anthems of my childhood.

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The band was supported by dance-pop artist Shab. The singer has already garnered considerable attention from Iranian listeners and is now setting her sights on an American audience with her debut album Infinite Love. Her opening set was my first introduction to her sound, characterised by quintessential pop hooks and full-bodied, booming dance beats.

If she was apprehensive about performing to an arena audience, it certainly didn’t show, as she performed tracks such as Pull Up and VooDoo with an energy of self-assurance. With two backing dancers and a dance routine choreographed down to the wire, Shab’s set was like watching a music video in real time.

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Up next was an artist who requires no introduction. After featuring on Wiley’s 2003 EP Ice Rink, Tinchy Stryder has established himself as one of the biggest names in the UK grime scene. Since then, the artist has collaborated with the likes of N-Dubz and Taio Cruz, and climbed the UK charts with the aptly named single Number One.

Tracks like Never Leave You, Spaceship, and, of course, Number One, transported the crowd right back to the summer of 2009, the days when you’d all huddle round your one mate with a Blackberry to listen to Catch-22 play out of those tinny speakers.

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JLS arrived onstage the only way a boyband should. The silhouettes of Humes, Merrygold, Williams and Gill appear dramatically in four centrally placed doorways onstage, with the opening notes of Eyes Wide Shut filling the arena. The elaborate staging was reminiscent of their X-Factor days, complete with a smoke-machine and visuals of the band on the screen overhead. Of course, the band had a meticulously memorised dance routine for every track, including Merrygold’s signature standing backflip. 

A lot has changed since the noughties, but JLS are certainly still leaning into their cheeky heartthrob status. Their once pre-teen fans may have grown up, but they continue to be charmed by the singers, with the band serenading two female fans onstage during I Know What She Likes. These guys really lap up every ounce of adoration that comes their way; their performance was every bit full of the eye-contact-while-heart-clutching that you’d expect. 

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It was a night of throwback hits, elaborate outfit changes, and onstage trapdoors, finishing with the encore track Everybody in Love. Love it or hate it, everyone knows the words to this track, making it the perfect underscore for an iconic setlist. Fans were left with a striking last image of the band, each taking a glory stance with one arm in the air, confetti canons of red, yellow, blue and green cascading down upon the first few rows of the audience - a little nod to their X-Factor days.


JLS performed at Motorpoint Arena on 23rd October 2023.

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