Fifteen years after they emerged to fame on X-Factor, multiple hiatuses, five UK chart-topping singles, and two Brit awards later, JLS are back on tour. Seven shows in, Everybody Say JLS: The Hits Tour stops at Cardiff Utilita Arena for two nights, bringing floods of JLS “day-ones” to the city.
The show starts with support from Shab and Tinchy Stryder, who get the crowd hyped for the main act: welcomed by a whooping crowd, Aston Merrygold, JB Gill, Marvin Hughes, and Ortisé Williams kick off their set with 2010’s Eyes Wide Shut, and don’t hold back as the lyrics and dance moves get saucy up next with Hottest Girl In The World.
I was hesitant, at first, as to how this venue’s sit-down setup would hinder the atmosphere created by JLS’ bops – but the boyband get the crowd out of their seats and dancing. Day One – from 2021 reunion album 2.0, which broke their eight-year silence – explores loyalty, its lyrics (“From day one /
You’ve been by my side”) creating intimacy between band and crowd, as if JLS are thanking their fans for sticking with them throughout their music career. That dedication is felt in the room, with concert-goer Dylan professing himself “JLS’ all-time number one fan” to me.
The rest of their set is a mixture of dancefloor hits and slow tunes: Do You Feel What I Feel?, Eternal Love, One Shot and So Many Girls (calling for audience participation from two women pulled up onstage) are all performed with an energy returned from the crowd. Things mellow with Close To You and 2012 charity single Proud, where we’re encouraged to pull out our phone torches.
JLS then dart offstage – followed by a camera, whose footage is displayed on the stage screens – to change up their black and white jewelled leather fits, before an electric performance of The Club Is Alive brings extra energy back to the stage. A DJ battle sees Aston and JB going head-to-head against Marvin and Ortisé, deviating from their own music to play pop classics from Umbrella to I Want It That Way.
In time, we return to the setlist, JLS pulling out chart-toppers including She Makes Me Wanna and Beat Again. A pre-recorded clip has Ortisé telling the story of how JLS came to be. Love You More gets arms swinging. But Everybody In Love ends the concert on a high, as the stage set lights up with the band’s signature primary colours and confetti covers the arena.
An evening packed with smash hits, slick moves, and vibrant visuals – there is cause for saying they are the best boy band to come out of ITV’s Saturday night talent show.
JLS / Tinchy Stryder / Shab, Utilita Arena Cardiff, Tue 30 Oct
words EVE DAVIES photos OWIN WONG