Nathan Sykes – The Ruby Lounge – Manchester – Live – 12th April 2015
Reinvention: “take up a radically new job or way of life.” Over the years there has been a plethora of once poster, lunch-box and condom adorning pin-ups that have attempted to shift from pop outfit to solo artist. Robbie Williams negotiated this change. As did Brandon Flowers. Even Emma Bunton made a semi-good fist at it. But one glance in Lee Ryan’s direction suggests this can be easier said than done. He steered further down the reinventing the wheel synopsis. Probably just a Blue thing. Once a character within the chart-topping soap opera of a group The Wanted, Nathan Sykes has become the first to drop the ‘boy-band’ tag and tread the boards alone.
The Ruby Lounge was filled with his former admirers. Parents hovering lowly at the back; adolescent girls waving their camera phones in time with the Sam Smith track scoring the wait for the 21 year old star; a hipster sips at a brandy. All very civilised. All very proper. Then. Bang. Cue raptures of females losing their minds, voices and shit. Ecstasy was an understatement for these people.
Throughout the Sunday night session Sykes illustrated his capacity to fulfil his reawakening from bit-part vocalist to genuine soul performer. As a collection of songs they maintained Sykes’ pop laced principles that steer slightly within the Sheeran meets Adele stomping group. ‘Over and Over Again’ was wrenching; self-accompanied on piano, Sykes’ understanding and melodic craft flourished. The broken progressions allowed his voice to forcefully hum out, breaking easily from hushing lows to piercing highs.
The seeds of melancholia that these traditional love songs were coloured with were unequivocally diluted by summer fuelled bursts of buoyant pop. ‘Money’ discussed the importance of currency within the minds of potential lovers, decorated with snappy horn explosions and sharp backing vocals that were as spirited as their on stage gyrating suggested. Running at the nucleus of each Sykes composition is a playful allure that spreads throughout each musical sound-bite created. ‘Famous’ – typically about the processes of generating requited ardor – was littered with infectious hooks; there was a reluctant aura within the backing ensemble, sensual guitar patterns and a real biting fever within the drums. Solid, solid pop.
‘More Than You’ll Ever Know’ was Sykes epitomising what his aficionados demand most from his music; sun-kissed hooks, cheeky guitars and a chorus packed out with blasting horns. A perfect soundtrack for screaming. ‘Freedom’ feels like his compositional breakthrough. Rarely is Sykes’ voice better – bar on a soul touched rendition of Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ – than within this dance-floor anthem; highlighted within a brittly intensifying chorus.
Sykes’ inaugural foray as a songster was classically zealous. With a voice to back up his affable onstage character, Sykes’ promise is distinctly less Ryan and more Williams.
Words by Clive K Hammond