Jingleball review: Paloma Faith, Labrinth, Elyar Fox and Leah McFall make for tasty treat
With the Jingle Bells came the Jingle Ball, and, were you to swing with the mood, jingle all the way. Following the obligatory warm-up of disco and Crimbo tunes, Cool FM's third annual "hip pop" extravaganza burst into life, dazzling the eyes and ears of the screaming thousands in Belfast's Odyssey Arena.
It wasn't so much a Christmas gig as a Christmas present for the predominantly youthful audience. Selfies, photos and flashing lights were all encouraged above, around and below the star-filled stage.
And it was Labrinth's We Will Rock You claps that set just the right mood for deafening sound and beats. His pluck and power combo, sonic booms mixed in with piano balladry, were the ideal prologue for the light and liveliness of the night.
The equally plucky yet much lower key acoustics of Elyar Fox weren't quite as winning, but they were more than enough for an audience wholly keen on losing themselves in the steadily enhancing party atmospherics. Better was local girl Leah McFall of The Voice fame; her strong, piercingly clear and determinedly fresh vocals rang true in this cauldron of noise. With each act having no more than a handful of songs, last night was as much about having fun as making it count - and McFall took this fully on board. As did Fuse ODG. His chantable refrains and easily clappable rhythms, adorned in spotlights of many colours, cemented already high spirits. It was like MTV had crashed all over again.
A succession of significantly quieter boyband anthems from Hometown paved the way for the biggest surprise of the evening following the interval. Humble as a speaker, ebullient as a singer, the refreshingly contradictory Paloma Faith was a breath of fresh air, with enough charisma, jazz and soulfulness to all too briefly capture local hearts.
By contrast, the meek yet charming Alexa Goddard strutted teasingly like a little songbird, daring watchers to be sucked in. Hardly a dominant presence, she nonetheless got by on goodwill, gumption and a dash of jollity.
The stage was then set for Neon Jungle to bring back the booms before Sigma and McBusted's grand finale brought the curtain down excitably. Like a selection box of popular chocolates, you mostly knew what you were going to get at the Jingle Ball, but the event was no less enjoyable for it.