Ella Henderson has proved to be one of X Factor’s more successful acts, with her debut album Chapter One coming in at Number One in the UK Charts when it was released last October, and then being snapped up by Take That to become their arena tour support earlier this year. She has clearly won a lot of fans since her appearance on the TV show as the O2 Academy is full to the brim with fans tonight, both young and old.
The stage set up is very minimalist for the young popstar, who doesn’t need to rely on any props, costume changes or gimmicks to entertain her audience; she is only joined by her band and two backing singers for the night. Eagerly awaiting her arrival, the crowd give her a euphoric reception when she enters the stage, sparking the first singalong of the night with the enchanting Glow.
It is undeniable that Henderson has a beautiful voice, and she doesn’t hit one bad note throughout the night; her material allows her to showcase her unbelievable range and vocal intricacies, whether on slow, emotional ballads such as Empire or on soulful numbers like Mirror Man, an upbeat, funky song directed at an uninterested lover. It is testament to the power of her vocals that she is able to hold the 2,500 capacity crowd to complete silence during moments like Missed and the heart-warming Yours. At only 19, her song-writing abilities set her apart from other X Factor contestants; some of her lyrics carry an emotional weight that is indicative of a maturity beyond her years.
At times though, this can be her downfall, as it starts to feel like we are watching an older popstar in the twilight of her career. Henderson is a likeable character, but at times the set feels dated and her movement is a bit too rehearsed. The “spontaneous” dance sequences with her backing singers are anything but and slightly uncomfortable to watch. Occasionally we need to see a bit of youthful exuberance from the 19 year old to add some spark to the performance.
Unfortunately, because of this, the second half of the set feels longer than it should, with songs beginning to blend together; Rocket and Billie Holiday are quite formulaic, for example. Thankfully, the tempo does pick up again at the end of the set with Glitterball, a song from drum and bass duo Sigma, which she featured in over the summer. Its adrenaline-fuelled beats and sweeping strings build up to a banger of a chorus. During the encore, she performs a captivating solo version of Cher’s Believe on the piano, ironically a highlight of the night, with lights being held in the air and the crowd taking over on the iconic chorus. Meanwhile, her best song Ghost is saved for last, showing her ability to write a giant pop hit. All she needs now is the stage presence to match the voice.