“Dad, that was the best night of my life!”......you can’t do better than that as a review line from my nine-year-old son after being wowed by Olly Murs at his Forest Live gig at Sherwood Pines.
It was a first live concert for my son and my seven-year-old daughter as we, as a family of four, headed to the heart of Sherwood Forest to catch former X Factor winner, Mr Murs.
And what a night it was.
It was a real event packed with recognised hits, the banter on the mic Murs is well known for — living up to the relaxed personality that always comes across — and a fantastic mash-up of covers from years gone by that had every member of the crowd up on their feet.
The first thing that we were struck by was the venue. As a regular visitor to Sherwood Pines I wasn’t sure how it would work.
But the tree-lined clearing not far from the cafe was the perfect location with food and drink outlets in an adjoining copse. A big thumbs-up to organisers The Forestry Commission.
Just days before, my kids had been playing football and cricket in the very area where the stage now stood and they were amazed by the transformation.
They were also amazed by the fact we were able to take our own chairs and a picnic to a gig and we could enjoy this among the thousands of other fans who had made the trip to see Murs — a star my youngsters had only previously seen on TV.
This was the first of three nights of concerts laid on by the Forestry Commission with Tom Jones sandwiched by Essex’s own Murs and rockers Elbow.
But there was only one man my kids wanted to see and the night met all their expectations, being kicked off in fine style by 2015 X Factor winner Louisa Johnson, whose fabulous voice belted out songs including Tears and Weak, which will feature on her upcoming new album.
It was the perfect warm-up as, after a brief break, a gigantic countdown clock appeared on the massive videoscreen backdrop to the stage and anticipation grew ahead of the arrival of Olly.
My youngsters were wide-eyed with anticipation and, from the moment he hit the stage, Murs had their attention — and that of the rest of the audience — and not for one moment did he let it go across almost two hours as he opened with You Don’t Know Love.
Hits such as the emotive Dear Darlin’, the upbeat Wrapped Up and the hugely successful Troublemaker, one of his number ones, hit the high notes as expected.
And we knew almost every lyric considering Murs’ albums are a constant in the cars of our household!
A highlight of the night came when Olly announced the next ten minutes would ’blow the mind’ of those who hadn’t been to one of his shows before.
And he was right as he combined songs including Here Comes The Hotstepper by Ini Kamoze, Jump Around by House of Pain, R.Kelly’s She’s Got That Vibe and That’s The Way I Like It by KC and The Sunshine Band in a section that had everyone smiling — even though my kids had no idea about some of the songs.
There was also a slot for Louisa Johnson to return to the stage to perform their collaboration, Unpredictable.
Murs also found time to tout for a new girlfriend as he flirted with the ladies of the crowd as part of what he renamed the ‘Find A Girlfriend Tour 2017’ and encourage younger members of the audience to ignore their parents when they tell them to Grow Up.
This was a fantastic night of showmanship capped off with a thankyou to the audience for helping him launch a career in music after previously working in a call centre.
I can imagine my kids, years from now in a conversation with friends discussing their first live gigs, thinking back to the night they saw Olly Murs at Sherwood Pines and a beaming smile spreading across their faces.