Before we begin it’s probably worth noting that the last time I made the trek up to the atmosphere-free aircraft hanger that is Wembley Arena it was to see Radiohead, so I’m hardly a typical Will Young fan.
I had rather fixed ideas about who would be though: I was expecting a crowd full of squealing tweenage girls, middle-aged mums who think he’s “lovely” and, of course, a sizeable gay contingent. And though all these groups were certainly present, so were coupley mid-thirties types, families, and hordes of excitable women: a true cross-section. Whatever you want to say about Will, it’s clear that he’s surpassed his TV talent show survivor status in a way none of his Pop Idol peers can come close to.
The evening opened with Friday’s Child, the title track from Young’s second album, which most critics seemed to agree had a certain soulful edge. Initially appearing in silhouette, a trilby-sporting Will slinked down the stairs flanked by a troupe of dancers.
Surrounded by capable session musicians and backing singers with considerable vocal clout, this number set the tone for the rest of the night: slick production, sharp choreography, a backdrop that was all red velvet and starscape lighting. Young’s dimples projected on a series of large screens much to the delight of a good chunk of the audience, both male and female, who sighed with contentment every time he smiled.
The bigger, glitzier numbers worked best, employing Latin beats and mellow melodies; an impeccably dressed Young gliding about the stage in a Justin Timberlake fashion. This is the kind of thing he excels at. Love the One You’re With had the whole arena on their feet and even drippy Pop Idol ballad Evergreen was given a rather funky reworking.
Recent single Leave Right Now was rather flat in comparison and marooned in the spotlight for the more low-key numbers he did tend to flounder slightly. As for his voice, well, while it is strong and tuneful, it’s occasionally prone to a nasal shrillness that can grate (and, I’m sorry, but his version of Light My Fire is still completely indefensible). Not that anyone minded much,even his endearingly inept between-song banter was met with much whistling and whoops of “We love you, Will!”
The audience were here to see Young do his thing and he gave them exactly what they wanted: cute, clean-cut and charming throughout. At one point, as he got down on his hands and knees and crawled flirtatiously to the edge of the stage, an audible orgasmic flutter went through the crowd and this chilly, sticky hall in grubby North London suddenly felt like quite a cool place to be.