“Eight years ago I was just a guy working in a call centre in Essex, giving people advice on how to save money on their energy bills…” reminisced Olly Murs towards the end of a slick performance, offering up the rags to riches story of a 21st century pop star.
Edinburgh Castle ***
In this case there were no thanks for the records which people were buying – these days, the glass slipper in a Cinderella story like Murs’s is the number of phone votes he received in X-Factor in 2009, the catalyst for his career to date.
Although to be fair, anyone who doesn’t even win a television talent show (Murs was runner-up) and is still playing to thousands of people in front of a ten-piece band eight years later surely has more going for them than just a bit of good publicity. Murs is a charmer, there’s no doubt – although, to reluctantly play the parental concern card, his Carry On innuendos showed the difficult balance of marketing a pop star to both kids and adults.
Yet his voice was strong and versatile, a natural soul singer’s instrument throughout the wistful pop of Years and Years, a duet with Louisa Johnson on recent single Unpredictable, and the low-key balladry of I Need You Now.
Unwittingly or otherwise, casting his ex as a panto villain before the latter (many in the audience seemed annoyed he’d ever been anything but single) wasn’t exactly chivalrous, but beyond the range of his vocal ability there’s a laddish quality to Murs. He peppered big hits including Heart Skips a Beat, Dear Darlin’ and Troublemaker with nostalgic ‘90s medleys including Montell Jordan, Ini Kamoze and Gala’s Free From Desire, a crowdpleasing strategy from a guy who works hard enough to never need another call centre job.