Tuesday, 12 June 2007

In Concert: M People @ Hampton Court


Lisa Verrico 13.06.07
Heather Small
Small feat: lead singer Heather Small got the crowd up and dancing after chastising them for being boring.

There are two ways to attempt a pop comeback - quietly book a few shows and see how it goes, or cause a huge fuss and aim for arenas.

M People opted for the former and their only London date this year took place at Hampton Court Palace as part of the stunning venue's 15th annual festival.

Their decision was a wise one since M People didn't quit at their peak (always an incentive for old fans who felt robbed), but rather faded away in a blur of soppy ballads and too much saxophone.

Moreover, the heat was off throaty singer Heather Small-Bryan Ferry and Tom Jones are the big pop names on this year's festival bill.

She was the glamour girl and her band of Manchester clubland veterans were there to funk up a smartlydressed, picnicing crowd who do most of their dancing at weddings.

M People founder Mike Pickering and white-suited percussionist Shovel led a nervy, seven-piece band into opener Renaissance, while Small stomped on in ludicrous gold shoes and a pink,
shiny dress with a bow at the back.

All looked so uncomfortable, it could have been the shortest reunion in pop history.
Yet after Excited was anything but exciting, something extraordinary happened.
Small chastised the crowd for being boring and, one by one, women got up from their seats, ran to the front and began to dance.

By the time a funky, flute-backed Someday came mid-set, even the men were on their feet, singing along.

From then on, M People flew, Small changed into a sexier outfit and hits such as Don't Look Any Further, Moving On Up and a cover of Itchycoo
Park turned the courtyard into a fun over-30s disco.

Those arena gigs may be just around the corner.

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