Belfast lass Rachel Tucker was voted off 'I'd Do Anything' tonight, finishing in an ill-deserved fourth place.
I have to confess to having a small personal interest in Rachel, as my daughter was one of The Munchkins when Rachel played Dorothy in 'The Wizard Of Oz' last Christmas. By all accounts she is a lovely person and in my opinion, an extremely impressive actress and singer. Rachel even received a ringing endorsement from Liam Neeson, who saw her in the production in Belfast's Lyric Theatre.
Rachel was, in a way, on a hiding to nothing by entering the 'Nancy' contest in the first place. As the 'professional' actress, if she'd won, some would have cried fix, by losing, others might say she was beaten by amateurs. From a promotional viewpoint however, the show was absolutely invaluable.
In the event, her performances on the show ranged from solid to phenomenal. Her rendition of the Sugababes 'About You Know' was little short of awesome, and her 'Cabaret' simply blew the other three girls off the stage and even got a standing ovation from the panel, and more importantly, Andrew Lloyd-Webber himself. typically, the public reacted by voting her into the singoff, putting ALW in an impossible position. Had Rachel been tied with Jodie, I think the conclusion would have been obvious, but Samantha had garnered much praise from the panel and had not finished in the bottom two before. Andrew's decision, whilst harsh, was perhaps understandable in the circumstances.
It's true that, being a Belfast girl, Rachel came across as slightly reserved, less likely to garner the sympathy vote, but throughout the contest, her grit and professionalism shone through. Without a doubt, she deserved the part.
But this is TV land. And as the Welshman Rydian recently discovered, talent often isn't enough. Of the three finalists, Samantha and Jessie come across as being plucky, but young and inexperienced, while Jodie comes across as the big-hearted northern lass who just might shade it at the end.
None can compete with Rachel in the vocal or acting stakes, but hey, this is showbiz. Anyone observing the music industry knows that a great voice and great songwriting can easily lose out to manufactured looks and a few gimmicks.
So if I were Rachel, I wouldn't feel too bad. Fourth out of twelve is no disgrace, and if the job offers don't come rolling in, I'll employ her myself. As to whoever wins next Saturday, all I can say is good luck on trying to fill Rachel's shoes.
A final word for Richard Croxford, manager of Belfast's Lyric Theatre, who campaigned tirelessly for Rachel. He emailed and phoned all the Munchkins families, drummed up countless votes, and organised a great afternoon for all the kids to publicise Rachel's heroic efforts.
Rachel's early exit was a travesty, but I've no doubt her career will benefit and her talent will be appreciated by directors with their heads on their shoulders rather than in the clouds.
A few weeks ago, I tried to explain to somebody exactly what Last.FM is. Rather like peanut butter, it's actually quite a tough sell. You really need to try before you buy. Or in this case don't buy at all, as most of it's spanking-well free!
Basically, if you love music, you'll love Last.FM. If you're a chart nerd, a CD collector, an I-Pod owner or want to hear something other than the top 40 crap on the radio, you NEED Last.FM.
To begin on the site, simply download the software (takes just a few minutes), and tell it which genre of music you'd like to hear. This can be anything from death metal to Irish country. Immediately, the site will start playing tracks from your genre, complete with a biography and photo of each artist. With each track, you have the option to save to your 'loved tracks', 'tagged tracks' or simply skip to the next one. You can also name an artist instead of genre and you'll be played dozens of other similar artists, with the same options as above for each track. And the really clever part is that the more you play, the more accurate the site becomes at working out what you'd like to hear.
A small tweak enables you to channel all the tracks you listen to via your PC, CDs or I-Pod through Last.FM, further enhancing the site's understanding of your personal tastes.
I've already discovered a dozen great artists through the site, including Nightwish, Syntax, Covenant, Unheilig and Rotersand.
For the modest sum of £1.50 a month, you get to play your 'loved tracks' in rotation (basically your own personal jukebox), add comments on each track, join forums and have all your tracks filed into charts, showing the number of plays for each artist and song.
It's music heaven, and for the price of a couple of CDs a year, it's phenomenal value. Trust me, you'll love it.
Now why didn't I say all this to that bloke a few weeks ago....
Hard to believe somebody took the time to do this, but here it is -- a gallery of 300+ vinyl shaped picture discs! Needless to say, most are from the 80s, but a few are surprisingly up to date. Brings back a few memories of spectacular wall displays and discs wobbling all over your turntable! Enjoy!
I'm sure there are hundreds of blog posts out there dedicated to these lovely ladies, but let's face it, what everyone wants are the thoughts of a man in his 40s, who's just seen them live.
After much pleading and pestering, I finally persauded my seven year old daughter to accompany me to Belfast's Odyssey Arena to see the show. First impression was the massive discrepancy in scale compared to my other two gigs this year -- Gary Numan (approx 300 punters), Nightwish (approx 800), Girls Aloud (approx 6000!!!) AND they sold out three nights, making approx 18000 in Belfast alone. Impressive or what?
Second impression was the shocking poverty afflicting the young concert going ladies of Belfast. Most could barely afford a few scraps of clothing. Not that I'm complaining mind you.
So the next impression was the support acts. Yes acts. Three of them. Rather like visiting a restaurant and getting three starters -- generous but rather sickening. First on was a group of lads called Billiam, whose name and performance came dangerously close to the word bilious. They sang a few nursery rhymes and jogged around the stage for about 20 minutes.
Next was a bloke called barely audible. I'm sure that was his name. Just as well he was on early, as he looked like he'd need to be up for school in the morning. To be honest, he wasn't bad. And he's on Myspace. Good luck in finding him.
Finally, a bunch of Girls Aloud wannabes came on. They called themselves the Saturdays, but by this performance, I reckon the wet Wednesdays might be more appropriate. At least one of their songs had the decency to use Yazoo's 1982 classic; 'Situation' as backing. I reckon this lot were booked to make Girls Aloud look even better when they finally came on. If they ever came on.
My daughter was getting a bit bored by now and was less than impressed with the Girls time-keeping. I was quietly praying that we'd seen the last of the support acts. To be honest, my farting farmyard impressions would have blown the rest of them off the stage.
The Saturdays thankfully departed and the lights went on. We were treated to a few pop videos, and then suddenly the show started. The curtains went back, and there were the girls, suspended in mid-air. This was going to be a classy show. None of your two torches and a disco ball here. We got fireworks and everything -- for the opening number!
Distance was a problem. Fifty four rows back does shrink your view a bit. Whereas you had to apologise for knocking Gary Numan off stage on the way to the loo, you really needed a pair of binoculars to ascertain that Girls Aloud actually were on stage. Fortunately there were a couple of big TV screens. And about a million little mobile phone screens. I mean seriously what is the point of people doing this? 'Look I got 14 seconds of a blurry noise and somebody's head.' Woo-hoo.
Anyway, back to the show. The ladies were running through their repotoire in fine fashion. 'You can't escape my biology.' No we couldn't. It quickly became apparent that Nadine and Nicola were doing a lot of carrying in the vocal department. Nadine seemed thrilled to be back 'home' and did some lovely inter-song banter. At least I assume it was lovely as we couldn't actually hear it. But she looked nice and smiled a lot, so that was good enough for me.
I hadn't realised how many cover versions Girls Aloud had done. The Pointer Sister's 'Jump' was great -- better than the original in my book. But 'Walk This Way'? Well what can you say? They were game to give it a go. Then there's Salt N Pepa's 'Push It', which relies almost entirely on it's funky little riff, so it's tough to mess up. Particularly nice though, was the Pretenders' 'Stand By You', not only because it's a nice version, but also because the ladies felt sorry for us lonely folks at the back and came halfway down the hall via a nifty gantry, just to sing it for us. That was nice.
No expense was spared. Hunky male dancers, great slide show, fireworks, costume changes, you name it, they had it.
Highlights included 'Call The Shots', an astonishingly good track so deep into their career, 'Can't Speak French' and the encore; 'Something Kinda Ooh', which had just about everything thrown into it apart from Gordon Brown, which was a relief.
I have to say that the girl's figures did give me slight cause for concern. They really could go a few fish suppers. Come on ladies, a few curves wouldn't hurt! And the vocals were frequently lost in the mix.
But hey, this was a spectacle, not a virtuoso vocal performance. And boy was it fun. We got all the hits, all the fireworks and all the flaunting we could possibly want. And it ain't easy to please a seven year old and a forty four year old, but tonight ladies, you managed it. Nice one.
Here's a picture of Girls Aloud on my sofa. All together now -- 'somethin' kinda ooh, jumpin' on my tube tube...'