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Only Men Aloud (Tour - Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The 14-member male voice choir, Only Men Aloud, achieved fame by way of a reality TV show. Unlike most contestants in such shows they have so much raw talent and are so appealing that you feel they may actually have deserved their triumph.
The choir are touring to promote their new album "In a Festive Mood". The stage is set to give a homely feel – a fireplace book ended by life-size tin soldiers and a staircase upon which the performers can pose dramatically. Choirmaster Tim Rhys-Evans has skilfully arranged the material so that the evening opens with traditional carols and moves through the pop and show tunes familiar from TV appearances before climaxing with seasonal songs from the 1960s.
The choir retain an edge of authenticity – no effort is made to hide their Welsh accents. But the need to include showbiz elements creates a disjointed show. Rhys-Evans makes lengthy speeches and a gristly montage of special moments from the TV show is used to cover frequent costume changes. You have to wonder if it’s worth the effort. Apart from a marvellously tongue in cheek tribute to Tom Jones the dance routines which utilise the different outfits never really get above the standard of dad giving it a go in the disco.
The choir are backed by a rhythm section of drums and bass and a synthesiser/ keyboard. The simulated strings and wind instruments, which the latter produces, adds an unfortunate artificial feel. Comparing the sound to the warm organic tones that a singer like Kate Rusby brings to seasonal songs you wish that a fiddler and flautist had been used instead.       
The material is both excellent in itself and designed to showcase the abilities of the choir. Music by Glenn Miller – written for a big band- is audaciously performed acappella .The over-done melodrama of pop songs by Wham and Take That is perfect for singers who can emote but still hit the right notes whereas show tunes like "Moon River" are performed with moving simplicity.

Best of all are the traditional carols performed, as they should be , with precision and passion by a group of singers at the peak of their ability and seeming to enjoy themselves just as much as the audience.

- Dave Cunningham 

(Reviewed at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester)


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