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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 09:41 GMT
Glossy debut for Pop Idol stars
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By Jackie Finlay
BBC News Online entertainment editor

So here we are at the start of the next stage of the Pop Idol money-making machine.

T-shirts, hats and mugs in place? Soundcheck for the salesboys and girls in the merchandising stalls around Wembley Arena? Fine, let's get on with the show - who cares what that's like...

The first night of the 21-date national tour of the 10 finalists from ITV1's Pop Idol was a chance for a bunch of excited kids to achieve their dream - see in the flesh some people who had been on TV.

Korben was the first to take to the stage
It was also a chance for another bunch of excited kids to achieve their dream - perform at Wembley in front of 11,000 screaming fans.

One after another the finalists trooped on to sing one of the songs they had performed in the show, and giggled to show host (and Pop Idol judge) Nicki Chapman how "fab" it was to be there.

Rough and ready

There was no spontaneity in the evening's proceedings - everything anyone said was scripted to the nth degree

The show itself was the TV format on legs. Video screens either side of the stage provided the logos, mini-films and clips familiar from the show.

And, with the Pop Idol theme tune blaring out every other second, it was clear that no risks would be taken.

There was no spontaneity in the evening's proceedings - everything anyone said was scripted to the nth degree. Such is manufactured pop these days.

For an occasion that demanded glitz and glam, the rough and ready dance routines and poor costumes of the backing dancers revealed little money has been lavished on the show itself, despite the ticket prices.

But the singers all handled themselves well, although none were forced to sing more than one or two numbers in a row (so not a particular test of live ability).

Of the eight lesser known finalists, Hayley Evett, Aaron Bailey, Jessica Garlick and Zoe Birkett proved themselves the best suited to arena performing.

Evett sang her beautiful showstopper from the TV show, That Old Devil Called Love, while Garlick impressed with Every Time We Say Goodbye.

Loudest screams

Darius Danesh seems to have decided to try and corner the over-18 heterosexual market.

He has developed an unfortunate habit of disrobing in every performance and arranged for knickers to be thrown on the stage after his rendition of It's Not Unusual.

The Pop Idol himself, Will Young, handled his performance and the audience with a pleasant relaxed confidence as he sang Light My Fire, Evergreen and Beyond the Sea.

Pop Idol finalist Jessica Garlick
Jessica Garlick will also sing at the Eurovision Song Contest
But the loudest screams and the most garish audience posters of the night - all night - were for baby-faced Gareth Gates, the second-place finalist.

For him, the concerts come at a good time. He has the chance to perform his new single Unchained Melody and charm the teddy bears out of the arms of the little girls and on to the stage (you think I'm joking).

One seven-year-old girl, sporting a Pop Idol headscarf, told her mother she thought she had fallen in love with Gates.

A sentiment clearly to be echoed around the country, if the decibels emitting from those tiny vocal chords all evening are anything to go by.

Pop machine

His much-vaunted duets with Birkett were at the end of it all, rather tame - the blatant attempt to make it the Gates and Birkett show fell a little flat.

But the most ironic moment of the evening was the choice of finale.

They sang it well - and it made a nice change to hear all 10 sing together.

But Frank Sinatra's My Way is hardly the right song for 10 poor souls who are only the latest to beg to have their lives dictated to them by the machine that is the pop industry.

Not that the little girls care.

Click here to read users' reviews.

The Pop Idol finalists are touring the UK starting with a gig at Wembley ArenaPop Idol live
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See also:

15 Mar 02 | Music
Fan frenzy for Pop Idols
14 Mar 02 | Reviews
Pop Idol concerts: Your views
15 Mar 02 | Reviews
Press views: Pop Idols unpolished
14 Mar 02 | Music
Idol Will to sing on TOTP
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