Review: An Evening with Whitney @ Manchester Apollo

Whether we like it or not, the hologram is the future – and we best get used to it.

Dead celebs will come again, and we’ll pay top dollar to have them entertain us. And we, the living, will do what we do best and moan about it.

Of course, we’ll clap, sing-along, dance, laugh and generally have a good time, but my word, after we’ve left the venue and had time to reflect, we’ll moan like the wind.

As An Evening with Whitney rocked up at the Manchester Apollo, there had already been a fair-share of complaining about the weird-eerie-ghoulish-disrespectful-money-grabbing-mind-f*ck that people had willingly paid up to £70 to see. And the tour was only two-legs in. People had nothing, nothing, nothing good to say.

From their hill of moral superiority, the experts looked down on the tour’s early shows – apparently it had tainted the whole notion of the live performance and bashed it for shamelessly using the Grammy-award winner to make a few quid. For many, they looked at the hologram idea and seen straight through it.

Manchester, as it tends to, saw things differently. The masses arrived in their 90s Whitney t-shirts, danced through the foyer and returned from the bar with their double-pint glasses. It was Friday night and Manchester wasn’t here to judge. Nope – people were here for a bloody good time.

As Whitney’s hologram glowed down onto the stage, kicking off with the popular Kygo version of Higher Love, the crowd were visibly awestruck by the extraordinary visual spectacle before them. The hologram was lifelike – yes, weirdly so.

The dancers added a splash of cabaret and the lighting and staging was grand, but not so much as to take away from the main attraction. Never have camera phones been snatched from pockets and Snapchat launched so quickly.

For all the chatter about Whitney’s hologram looking like something generated by a Sega Megadrive, people could not believe their eyes and wanted to share it with friends and family as fast they could. It might not reproduce as effectively in a television studio, which is why many of the keyboard warriors mocked the hologram’s appearance on a recent episode of This Morning, but from the floor of the Manchester Apollo the hologram looked and moved like Whitney Houston.

Even if it was a lazy hologram and could only muster two paces in each direction from the centre of the stage. Sure, it wasn’t perfect.

At times it felt glitchy and out of sync with the music, but then you could say the same thing about Cheryl Cole. The hologram’s face lacked the clarity of say, an actual human being, but the biggest compliment you could pay is that at times you forgot you were watching a hologram.

The crowd were on terrific form. Or just drunk. Within three notes of I Have Nothing, the room gasped in harmony, letting out one big almighty ‘ahhh’ as they prepared for a collective karaoke sesh. Or perhaps everyone was just happy to hear it sang by Whitney and not another X-Factor hopeful.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody had the room out of their seats dancing with somebody, whether they knew them or not. Wayne Rooney’s treasured ‘Run To You’ had fans reaching into their bags for their favourite hairbrush microphone and soon the floor was out of their seats one more time to belt out Take Me To The Cloud Above.

It didn’t matter if your playlist was filled with Oasis, Stormzy or Metallica, it was unashamedly banger after banger. It’s easy to forget just how many hits Whitney had and why she is the only artist with eight consecutive multi-platinum albums.

As the night closed, it felt like the music scene’s equivalent of football’s VAR – not without its flaws, and you feel there will be much more divided narrative to come, but ultimately it is something people should just learn to embrace. Unlikely, I know.

The tour promised to be a celebration of Houston’s music, transcendent impact and influence. In June 2010, Whitney fans arrived at Manchester Arena unaware that it would be Whitney’s last ever full concert.

In her final years, she was synonymous with ambivalence –  reviews talked both of fragility and weak vocals, but also of her aura and stardom. One fan on Friday night spoke of how a friend had paid £150 for a ticket back in 2010, only to leave disappointed halfway through.

It would have been a tragedy if her final troubled years were how some people had remembered her. An Evening With Whitney, albeit odd, polished yet imperfect, went someway to celebrating the global mega-star that she was.

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