It’s been four years since Rebecca Ferguson finished as the runner-up to Matt Cardle on The X-Factor, and it’s probably fair to say she’s left him in the dust – she’s released two exceptionally strong albums that are up there with the best material to come from the show’s alumni, for a start. Despite this being her second headline tour, she’s still not the perfect performer – her vocal ability remains as powerful and beautifully emotive as ever, but her stage presence and confidence still feels like it could do with some work. She’s undoubtedly made great progress over the years, and is a far cry from the girl who barely moved on stage back in 2010, but her craft hasn’t been perfected just yet.
Many of the songs on the new album Freedom have a soulful and rich quality to them, allowing for an effortless transformation from studio form to live set. The understated rawness of the title track is simply heartbreaking, while Hanging On becomes a surprising contender for the evening’s highlight – her husky tone displays nothing but pure determination and assertiveness. However, most of the new material is performed early in the set, with tracks from debut album Heaven being left until the end of the night. This feels like something of a misfire; with the two albums being so noticeably different in terms of lyrics and general tone, the night would feel a lot more varied if they could be compared side by side. The tracks from Heaven still sound as fresh as ever, though, with Backtrack being particularly irresistible and Too Good To Lose getting an ecstatic audience reaction. Glitter & Gold, despite being arguably the debut’s finest moment, goes unperformed – this is particularly annoying, considering she manages to squeeze in three covers. Her rendition of Roar is admittedly far better than anything Katy Perry could probably ever manage, but performing Tom Odell’s Another Love simply feels a bit pointless.
The two incredible backing singers are also worthy of a mention. Their powerful vocals occasionally overpower Rebecca’s more delicate tone, but generally they compliment each other wonderfully, adding a needed extra layer to tracks like I Hope. At one point they’re even allowed to take centre stage while Rebecca sways along at the side, but this leaves an awkward feeling that their stage presence is possibly a little better than hers. On the whole, none of the night’s issues are really anything more than minor quibbles that couldn’t be easily solved. A bit more stage direction, plus a tighter setlist, would probably allow her live set to finally do justice to her material and excellent voice. She’s still an exceptional talent, and one we look forward to seeing more of in the future.