Barbershop boys create popera era

FIRST came the Opera Babes. Then, with their operatic arrangements of such unlikely numbers as the Britney's Hit Me Baby One More Time, Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, REM's Everybody Hurts and Radiohead's Creep, came the opera blokes, G4.

G4 first hit the headlines as the public vote returned them week in week out to ITV's popular talent show The X Factor. But were they opera, were they pop or had they just invented popera?

The four-piece of Jon Ansell, 22, Matt Stiff, 24, Michael Christie, 23, and 22-year-old Ben Thapa were never in any doubt, they were simply following in the age old traditions of the barbershop quartet.

Ahead of their concert at the Playhouse on Tuesday, Christie explains: "We started off G4 as a barbershop quartet but the problem is we don't really fit into any category, so people struggle to define us.

"We go from opera to rock to pop, so we get all types of people at our concerts. Some come in liking one style, say the poppy stuff, and go out liking the opera."

Despite their popularity, the classically-trained male vocal quartet lost out to Steve Brookstein in the final of the series, but as often happens in reality talent shows, the runners-up go on to enjoy a higher profile than the winner.

It's a pattern G4 looks likely to continue. Still, Christie admits it was disappointing not to win.

"We were just over the moon to get onto the live finals. Each week was a bonus. It was a surreal experience. In the final we were just thrilled to have got that far, but it was disappointing not to win." They may not have won X-Factor but they did land a 1 million record deal with Sony Music, which their manager Louis Walsh claimed was better the winner's.

And no doubt the boys also took a modicum of solace from an unexpected award - they beat off Brian McFadden, Will Young and even David Beckham to win Best Male Hairstyle in a survey for Brylcreem.

"That was bizarre, but we did joke at the time that it was nice to win a public vote for a change," laughs the singer ,who was a chorister from the age of 13 and who can be heard on the soundtrack of Four Weddings and a Funeral.

After his voice broke, Christie took a couple of years out before returning to singing at the age of 17, and was studying opera when the opportunity to take part in The X Factor materialised.

"We all graduated from music college last July and were looking to go onto post-grad courses, but cancelled them when Jon saw the advert for The X Factor on TV.

"But it started off as a bit of fun. We had a farewell concert as G4 in college and thought it would be good to get a quote from Simon Cowell to publicise it so we went along to the audition.

"But the judges round was the third audition and by the time we got to that stage we were just overwhelmed. Then we just kept going through. It was incredible. We thought they wouldn't like us because we were so different."

You can find out just how different at the Playhouse when the boys perform all the songs from their current album and preview some new material from their next, the second of many, hopes Christie.

"We want longevity," he insists. "We don't want to just be around for a year an then fly away, we want to stick around."

So far, the signs look good.

• G4, The Playhouse, Greenside Place, 7.30pm, Tuesday, 25, 0870-606 3424