Sunday 5th March 2017 – The Apex, Bury St. Edmunds – 7:30pm
www.G4official.com – Ticketmaster hotline: 0333 321 9999
As runners up of the very first series of The X-Factor back in 2004 (won by Steve Brookstein, fact fans), classical crossover four piece G4 pioneered the “popera” movement long before Blake, Rhydian, Susan Boyle, Richard & Adam, Jonathan & Charlotte and Collabro (who I have also seen live, on their Act Two Tour last March) brought Les Mis to mainstream attention.
After three successful albums selling over two million copies, resentment within the troupe and lead singer Jonathan Ansell’s desire to go it alone lead to the original line-up disbanding in 2007. However, 2014 saw a tenth anniversary reunion of three original members: high tenor Ansell, low tenor Ben Thapa and baritone Mike Christie. Incoming bass singer Nick Ashby stepped in to Mike Stiff’s slot, after Stiff declined. A Christmas album and Back For Good Tour followed.
Last night saw the former barbershop quartet from the Guildhall School of Music bring their latest 31-stop tour to Bury St Edmund’s swanky modern venue The Apex for a sell-out performance in front of over 750 East Anglians. We were welcomed into the venue to the harmonious voices of the Sound Collective Chorus, who were performing on the balcony prior to the gig-proper’s 7:30pm start time.
Sat to the rear of the shallow-but-multi-levelled auditorium, the set kicked off in surprising fashion when accompanying saxophonist Oli Nez began a short warm-up routine from the back entrance while the lights were still up! He traversed through the crowd, occasionally sitting next to a shock patron or two, as he made his way to the stage. While he confessed his track selection was typically traditional (he even began “The Pink Panther” at one point!), he made an impression with his witty audience interaction.
After introducing the headliners, Oli took a seat on the stage and he remained there for the rest of the night. He was joined in residence by a pianist and trio Sorrelli Strings, who really exemplified the authenticity of G4’s voices with their musical accompaniment to all their best-known interpretations (“the G4 classics,” as Jonathan labelled them), as well as all thirteen tracks from their new Love Songs album, released just three weeks ago.
With Coldplay’s “Yellow”, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Nessun Dorma” among the hits, this was archetypal safe-zone “popera” fare, but then they had to give the crowd what they came to hear. And with repartee to rival Oli’s, the G4 lads elevated and personalised the live experience with heart and humour, often picking out audience members to serenade, present roses to – or sit next to, in Jonathan’s case! Hosting duties were well shared between the four, even if Jonathan and Ben seemed to get the lion’s share of the lead vocals come song time.
The Sound Collective Chorus were twice integrated into the set, while Oli Nez was given a further solo. Gorgeous support soprano Mary-Jess (China’s ‘X-Factor’ champion and singer of the Downtown Abbey theme, no less!) also joined the lad’s thrice (each time in a dazzling new dress!) and was also given the stage to herself for a further showcase of her sensational talent. There were times when the evening felt more like a variety show than G4 & Friends, but the group’s breaks were far better integrated into a much freer flowing second half.
The concert came to a triumphant crescendo during “Barcelona” with the stage full of every artist who had contributed throughout the evening. A grand experience was capped off with a personable album signing and selfie opportunity in the foyer following the rousing encore. Each of the lads (as well as Oli and Mary-Jess) took real time to interact with each fan, regardless of how tired they must have felt! Their conversations were warm and genuine and they came across as true gents. Bravo, G4.
CR@B’s Claw Score: