Monday, October 15, 2007

Donny Osmond @ Wembley Arena

Just days after announcing that pop’s most famous singing Mormon brothers are planning a reunion tour next spring, Donny Osmond bounded on to the Wembley stage as if he had never been away. Playing to a packed house, the 49-year-old singer still projected an impossibly boyish and clean-cut image, his toothy good looks oddly reminiscent of the Kennedy clan in their Camelot prime. Such wholesome innocence, once a burden, is now a key selling point.

Inevitably, the excitable crowd was largely composed of middle-aged women rediscovering their chaste teenage lust for pop’s most asexual sex symbol. Three decades later, it seems they still want to mother him, albeit in a slightly Freudian way. Wembley workers patrolled the aisles with mops, presumably to deal with spillages resulting from the fatal combination of Bacardi Breezers and stress incontinence. But there is no denying that Osmond is a great entertainer. He’s been a professional performer for four decades, after all.

This show was energetic and good-humoured, mixing soppy soft-pop classics including Puppy Love and the excellent sub-Jacksons disco romp One Bad Apple with vintage cover versions from his latest album, a collection of 1970s ballads. Even the mildly raunchy Soldier of Love, from his short-lived semi-comeback in the late 1980s, sounded more agreeably naff than plain embarrassing.

Britain’s special relationship with Osmond reached a peak of Donnymania in the mid1970s. Ever since, the singer has harboured plans to reclaim his pop throne here, and in 2004 he had his first Top Ten hit for three decades, Breeze on By. This slushy little number went down a storm at Wembley. As did Any Dream Will Do, a souvenir from the singer’s career-reviving run in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the 1990s.

Osmond punctuated his set with self-mocking banter, but never risked all-out irony or retro-kitsch. In a smart postmodern touch, he shuffled through a medley of his old hits via an iPod, then sang snippets with updated arrangements.

A more adventurous selection of songs might have enlivened this safe, cosy show for casual fans. But no one could argue with the singer’s choice of encore, a rowdy funk-rock stampede through the demented Osmonds favourite, Crazy Horses. After such a supercharged finale, Wembley’s cleaners were in for a long night.

— Tour continues October 16 at Plymouth Pavilions; Nottingham Royal Centre, on October 18; Birmingham NEC, on October 19



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