James Blunt took one small step for Man-chester by bringing his Moon Landing Tour to the Apollo amid a sell-out crowd.
Bouncing onto the stage to the classic opening from 2001: A Space Odyssey and with a backdrop filled with images of the moon, jump-suited Blunt plunged into Face The Sun.
From the first moment, the audience – equal numbers of males and females spanning all ages – sang along enraptured, many fans word perfect.
And from this point the entire theatre was captivated for the next 105 minutes or so.
Face the Sun was followed by I’ll Take Everything and then the third track from Moon Landing, his latest album, Blue on Blue.
This was what the audience had come to hear and they were not disappointed before he followed this up with his 2005 breakthrough hit, High.
By now all the fans were singing the words in tandem with Blunt as they soaked up his uniquely evocative voice.
After a couple more from Back to Bedlam, his debut and biggest album, Blunt treated his fans to numbers from his other three studio albums.
Before performing perhaps his best song of all time, Goodbye My Lover.
This song does the beg question why we all love to hate James Blunt – and by ‘we’, I mean why we men love to hate James Blunt.
What is it that arouses so much animosity towards the man?
He introduced his instantly recognisable song by saying that ‘this is my band’s favourite’, which they can enjoy as Blunt performs a terrific solo.
And it is his throw-away line to introduce this incredibly powerful ballad, this self-deprecation that is the essence of James Blunt as a performer.
From the moment he stepped on to the stage, he looked mildly embarrassed and confused that so many people had come to hear him.
Only by the time he had finished High did he look comfortable and confident that he would not be thrown-out.
Between numbers, Blunt’s banter with his audience was characterised by this lack of confidence.
After Sun on Sunday, which he introduced with the words ‘for my next miserable song’, he joked that he thought he’d heard someone laughing during the song and had checked his fly.
Perhaps he is right to be a little lacking in self-confidence in the face of all the disparaging comments that have been made about him but why do we love to hate him so much?
Maybe it is because even now, when men are supposed to be in touch with their feminine side, machismo still refuses to die.
Blunt bucks the trend though and sings unashamedly about his deepest feelings and insecurities.
“I have never been a beautiful boy. Never liked the sound of my own voice. I wasn’t cool when I was in my teens. I never slept but I did have dreams.”
Blunt sings about things we men may feel but are still not allowed to show.
These are female feelings and sitting amongst the audience, it was the female fans that most overtly lapped up his sentiment.
Us men, just nodded along, feeling the profundity of his angst but too wrapped up in the cultural norms of the day to allow ourselves to shed a tear.
So to those of you laugh and call him goat-face, who say he can’t dance and he can’t sing, shame on you.
He can’t dance, granted, but he certainly can sing.
Deeply personal, full of sadness and of loss, he sings about his innermost fears and worries with a simplicity and honesty that is breathtaking.
Although he sings Goodbye My Lover for the umpteenth time in front of thousands he still manages to get so emotionally overcome that he almost chokes.
Blunt crashed out the rest of his set finishing with a fine rendition of So Long Jimmy, followed by an encore set consisting of Stay the Night, Bonfire Heart and finishing with 1973.
This was a fantastic set and all that his faithful fans could have asked for.
Blunt proved that, as an artist, he will be around for a long time.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, with thanks