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by Margaret Chrystall
IT was a close run thing whether Friday’s shrieks for Peter Andre’s biggest hit Mysterious Girl beat the volume of cheers that followed from a girlcentric crowd that serenaded him with The Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond.
Though the Inverness Leisure show was some way short of a sell out, there was something magic about Peter Andre’s Big Night.
It just goes to show that for a family-style audience, all you need for smiles all round is a receptive crowd, well worked-out setlist, great 10-piece band and a host and star as charming and likeable as Andre.
(OK, I confess I’ve got a soft spot – and the £3 Big Night keyring to prove it!).
Keeping the mood light, the set included a mix of Peter’s own hits – including Perfect Night, favourites from the 90s, classics perfect for a brass section like Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke, and novelties such as the Zorba The Greek theme (Chris Andre on bouzouki) and Peter’s imminent Christmas single.
The dark curtain fell away at the start of the set revealing the star’s name up in lights and Peter in a smart, black suit. So from the off, there was the sophisticated feeling of your classic swing show – with the 10-strong dressed up gang of musicians including three-piece brass section.
Single Kid got in an early advert for Peter’s latest album Big Night, though there was no chance of things getting predictable when Pharrell Williams’ Happy was quickly rolled out – showing off both how well the singer’s light voice works as a substitute for Pharrell’s and also how adaptable and super-charged a proper big band can be.
In fact, throughout the night, clever choices of cover only flattered Peter’s voice – possibly written off back in the 90s as a cheesy pop set of pipes overshadowed by those well-toned pecs.
But it was well-framed in Happy, the cover of George Michael’s Careless Whisper, Michael Jackson’s Shake Your Body and in the first encore song – a cover of John Legend’s Ordinary People in an after-hours around the piano style that saw the Australian in shirt sleeves with a handful of band members harmonising.
But the moves weren’t bad either.
His original talent for channeling Michael Jackson’s moves was still in working order for Shake Your Body. And in Flava – another of his three 90s number ones – he warned us: "I’m going to attempt some of those moves!". And he did better than your average 41-year-old in a constricting suit.
There was just one Iceland price tag joke (his ads have topped the advertising most popular chart) , though the set-up for introducing Christmas Is For Family involved getting us in the festive spirit by rattling out a few bars of Let It Snow and Jinglebell Rock, as well as the band donning Santa headgear – including the crew at the side of the stage. During an earlier ska arrangement it was also worth catching a look at them dancing in the dark and showing off their impeccable nutty boy moves.
And there were great little bonuses from the musicians – a gorgeous trombone solo in Mysterious Girl, a smokey muted trumpet intro here, a sobbing sax solo in Careless Whisper there.
Peter got his brother to take a smartphone selfie as he blow a kiss with the crowd’s phones lit up behind him.
"What a beautiful crowd!" he’s schmoozed us earlier, impressed by the volume of our Loch Lomond.
And his teasing worked well on the fans – getting the band to start the intro to Mysterious Girl before a long wait for the whole thing. Or joking his hair would break as he put on a Christmas hat (it didn’t ... but stayed supergel-perfect). Or pretending that he was going to take his jacket off starting a spontaneous "Off! Off! Off!" chant from the crowd.
Earlier he had told us that people had been telling him people were only there for one song.
But Friday proved that since the Mysterious Girl pop pin-up days when Peter seemed just another one-hit wonder, he’s spent the past few decades maturing into a bona fide entertainer.