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Virgin Radio Big Thank You Tour - Arena. Manchester, 26/4/2022

  by Shirley Procter

published: 23 / 5 / 2022

Virgin Radio Big Thank You Tour - Arena. Manchester, 26/4/2022

I’m at the Manchester Arena for the Virgin Radio Big Thank You tour, sitting on my scooter on a camera platform, This is the second of a short tour of free gigs to say thank you to key workers for all their work during the pandemic. Most of the tickets were free or £5 each. We missed the first act sadly, due to being caught up in the football traffic. Currently, there’s a DJ playing ‘Town Called Malice’ by The Jam. The view is phenomenal. I am right at the top of the Arena, facing the stage straight on. The DJ finishes his set, and the next act comes on. It’s Tom Walker. He walks on to cheers from the crowd. He’s backed by keyboards, drums, bass and guitar, He is also playing guitar himself. He plays ‘Not Giving In’, which he released in June 2019. This is a lovely song. He thanks all the key workers in the audience, then plays ‘Wait for You’. Ooh, there are tiny spotlights on the crowd – which make it look like everyone is moving and swaying. Tom talks about growing up in Manchester, with his dad bringing him to the Arena to see his favourite bands. He can’t really believe he’s playing here. He tells us that he wrote the next song for the love of his life, who he is marrying next year. Its ‘Just You and I’ and is a beautiful serenade to the person he loves the most. Backing vocals ae provided by the guitarist. He pauses singing and tells us we’re all going to sing the last chorus together, and so we do. Next up is a more uptempo number, still about finding love. It’s ‘Serotonin’. He describes this song as “Naughty, it sounds naughty!” It’s great, I love it. There are fireworks and flames shooting high in front of the stage. His last song is ‘Leave A Light On’ which he released in October 2017. Oh, this is beautiful. The lyrics are incredible, so moving. Tom asks us all to put our phone lights on and sings the chorus again before thanking us and leaving the stage. In between sets, there are video shorts from a range of bands saying thank you to key workers - The latest one is from the Kooks, and is followed by them then singing ‘Ooh La’. Next up are the Wild Things - which is also the title of one of my favourite books as a child. They are also a favourite of ALT-J and a British rock band They open with ‘Only Attraction’, which is taken from their debut album, ‘You’re Really Something’. The lead singer is Sydney Rae White, who also plays bass guitar, Hello Suzi Quatro! But in denim! The band comprises drummer, keyboards, electric and rwo bass guitars, and with a strong, driving beat from the drummer this is a good, foot-stomping tune. Sydney switches guitar for another bass. Maybe a string snapped? Then, there’s some technical problem, so they stop the song and start again, filling the gap with “We love you, Manchester.” They start up again, with a slightly slower song. which has the lyrics “I see the lights in the sky/They were nothing but stars/I will make you stay around.” She says. “Thank you Manchester, I’m loving the lights. Thank you, key workers. We wouldn’t have got through the last two years without you.." This is also a great tune, with good lyrics and a great beat. She introduces the next song by saying, “This song is off our first album, is about being in love with someone, but being really. really fed up with them, and is ‘I Think You Can Do Better’.” There are more flames and pulsating red lighting. The band ask if they can take a photo with the crowd, so they stand with their backs to us and take a shot! This is their last track. This sounds like something Alanis Morissette might sing! The contrast between Sydney’s voice and the pounding guitar is great - one of those really good clashes that when it works is just fabulous! There are more fireworks as the song finishes, Sadly, I’ve not seen the Wild This play before - they’re good! I’ll have to rectify that in the future There’s another short break, this time with Liam Gallagher playing ‘Wonderwall’ and thanking key workers, while a grand piano is wheeled onto the stage, ready off the next act. Isaac Stuart is next, and when he comes on he tells us that this is the biggest gig he hass ever done, with the most people attending. He opens with discordant chords on the piano and plays us ‘Saved'.. He’s supported by two female backing singers. This is a slow, 3/4 time song, and is about being saved by someone, it’s beautiful. The crowd love it! He introduces himself, and thanks all the key workers, and tells us his last show was to two hundred people. The next song is his new single, ‘You Cut Me Down’, which is out now. Somewhere there is a stringed instrument playing, but it’s not visible. Again, a great lyric and a good tune. He’s very easy to listen to, and considering his last gig was to two hundred people you can’t tell! ‘You Cut Me Down’ is about being rescued when life became too much. It’s lovely, fast in parts, slow in others. His next song is someone else’s, that he first sang on Radio 2 It is ‘Stayin’ Alive’ by the Bee Gees, but much slower and pared back. You couldn’t do chest compressions to this, but it is fantastic! It is a totally different song, and sounds excellent! I’ve always thought of this as an upbeat, celebratory song, but sung like this you can really hear the pain in the lyrics. His last song is ‘We Don’t Wanna Go Home’, which is another beautiful song and a great one to end on. Last up are the Kaiser Chiefs. I last saw them at the Apollo, Manchester, and before that at the Leeds Festival. They’re brilliant live. The lead singer Ricky Wilson does a Freddie Mercury “Ay O” a few times, then they open with “Never Miss a Beat”, with lots of strobe lighting on stage, and their KC logo flashing. Next up is ‘Every Day I Love You Less and Less’ and features streamers exploding into the crowd. Oh yes, they’re completely on form, getting the crowd to do the scream! Then, it’s ‘Ruby’ - everyone recognises it from the start, and we’re all singing “Ruby, Ruby, Ruby”, loudly. Enjoying it so much, I’ve forgotten to write! As they finish, the crowd goes wild. They immediately follow it with ‘I Predict a Riot’. There are fireballs shouting up from the stage, the stage lights are all red, swiftly changing to turquoise then white strobe with more fireballs. Wow, that was good! I can’t really hear Ricky over the crowd when he starts to talk, but the crowd quietens down a bit. The drums and cymbals roll, then go quiet, with the piano picking up slowly, then launching into ‘Oh My God!’ The crowd is absolutely loving this set. Most people are up dancing and we’re all singing the “Oh my God! I can’t believe it/I’ve never been this far away from home” echo and refrain. There are now machines pumping out confetti, and as the song finishes the crowd erupts too! They leave the stage, and people stream out of the arena. We wait until most people have left, and then head home, too. This was a fantastic gig. with some amazing singer-songwriters as well as the bands!

Also at Arena, Manchester

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Virgin Radio Big Thank You Tour - Arena. Manchester, 26/4/2022

Virgin Radio Big Thank You Tour - Arena. Manchester, 26/4/2022

Virgin Radio Big Thank You Tour - Arena. Manchester, 26/4/2022

Virgin Radio Big Thank You Tour - Arena. Manchester, 26/4/2022

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Shirley Procter enjoys the Virgin Radio Big Thank You show at the Manchester Arena, and sets from Tom Walker, the Wild Things, Isaac Stuart and the Kaiser Chiefs.

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