Monday, 9 September 2013

Review of Selena Gomez at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, September 8, 2013

It's the screaming that will stay with me forever. I've never heard anything like it. The very definition of ear piercing. Nineteen hours later and the delirium of three thousand teenage girls is still muffling my spider senses. It was like all the wild parakeets of west London had turned up together.

It must be stunning to be the cause of such wonderful joyfulness. The warning signs were there when a burly bloke wandered on stage to tune-up one of the support act's guitars. I thought The Beatles had shown up. I bet he doesn't hear that kind of reception at your average indie gig.

But this is no indie kid. This is the cute little girl that delighted a generation of Disney Channel eight-year-olds as Alex in the fabulous Wizards of Waverly Place. The kid who outgrew Mickey and now aged 21 is delighting those same kids who are older, streetwiser and with their own Spotify accounts.

Like everyone else, she's in a rush to grow up. This from Nobody Does It Like You: "I wanna be a bad girl, you bring out my wild side. Your sexy kind of slang the best I've ever had." They don't talk like that on the Disney Channel.

Last night she put on great, grown-up show with a voice like Betty Boop, hot pants like Kylie and a clinically efficient chart sound that mashes up pop, dance, and auto-tuned rap.

She dances pretty much non-stop, making sure everyone in the newly-refurbished art deco Apollo, grandly green and gold like the nearby bridge, felt like they got their own wave and their own smile. Two fabulously less petite dancers add to the energy in the essential hot pants and Selena t-shirts on either side of her. A DJ-style keyboard player stands mysteriously on a plinth behind her, the guitarist and rhythm section tucked safely away in the corner, leaving as much stage as possible for Selena to fill. And fill it she does, especially when she's bending over backwards with her long, black hair flailing all over the place to more and more delighted wailing.

The big video screen at the back of the stage was three-quarters hidden by the speaker stack from where we were sat - boo to that, Apollo - if it was a football match those would be "partially obstructed" discounted tickets. Selena used it to chapter-head the various show sections by showing herself looking like a Latino Alice in Wonderland in front a series of white doors. Which would she go through? Would we get street dance Selena, fairytale Selena with the spangly microphone, pop strut Selena, rocking Selena? We got them all by the end of the night.

There wasn't much chat, apart from the obligatory hello Hammersmith, I love you, and are you still with me having a good time (of course we were), but maybe we got a small insight into the young woman behind the wizard in her intro to my favourite, Who Says, a song treading the familiar teen theme of being yourself even when everyone's beastly to you.

"Sometimes when I've had a bad day and I wonder what I'm doing in my life, and I look at social media and see what people are saying. And I think, you know what, don't listen to anyone who says you can't do that, or that you're not beautiful, or you're a bad person. Who says that?"

Anyone who followed the Twitter outrage that followed Selena's break-up with little Justin Bieber will know that quite a lot of people say things like that, actually.

The 90-minute show ended with an encore of fans' favourite Slow Down and a hugely impressive shower of ticker tape. By then we'd forgotten the smell of fresh paint. But we had proof if proof were needed that Selena Gomez is the pin-up girl for thousands of young women all over the world and good luck to her.

She's also got a bath in her tour bus. A fact revealed by the infectiously confident front-kid of support act The Vamps. It was good to see the ukelele continuing its renaissance in his hands, sounding as Formbyesque as ever in punky pogo-pop covers of Busted, The Killers and Simon and Garfunkel. The foursome had been hanging out in the Gomez coach that very afternoon and were blown away by the bathroom: "A bath in her bus! How cool is that?"

Yep, that's pretty cool. Well worth a scream.

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