“Hands up if you won today!” Olly Murs shouts from the stage, quiff precariously buffeted by an early evening breeze. A chorus of cheers and raised fists greet him. “Hands up if you lost!” he adds, to an identical response from the hundreds of revellers crammed into fuchsia pink cocktail dresses and feathered hats.
In the bosom of York Racecourse, the 33-year-old chart-troubling star seems almost precision-tooled for such a setting and performance; from his dance-soul crowd-pleasers to his line in seaside-postcard humour, he wears the cheeky-chappie legacy of Robbie Williams on his sleeve, a consummate after-dinner entertainer.
In the midst of a summer run of shows across forests, paddocks and mid-tier football stadia, Murs and his band – including a three-piece horn section – have shaved off most of the excess baggage from his sold-out arena jaunt earlier this year in favour of a slick, hits-indebted affair. Newer hits, such as the surging synthpop of You Don’t Know Love and heady duet Unpredictable, performed with a backing singer in lieu of the absent Louisa Johnson, both lean on a crisper, icier musical direction than the saucy brass of Wrapped Up and the skittering ska of Heart Skips a Beat – but they all offer warm, familiar tonal comforts. The languid love-funk of Stevie Knows leans with a wink on Superstition, all twanged bass and grooving drums; the eighties-indebted soft rock of Back Around segues into What’s Love Got To Do With It with nary a change in chords. Murs and his music are the aural equivalent of a homemade apple pie; lovingly crafted and deliciously palatable.
A medley of trans-generational hits from other artists kicks off what is termed as the “go wild” section that heralds the closing sprint and the singer opts to do away with the encore as “it seems like a waste of time” in his own words. The gilt-edged disco-pop of Troublemaker triggers an outbreak of dad-dancing from the minority of men in attendance; Dance With Me Tonight’s doo-wop hooks sink themselves in with vigorous tenacity. As Murs lounges on stage during the song’s conclusion, he pulls the splits in mid-air; the most dangerous feat performed throughout. It’s a safe, stable showcase to cap off a sun-scattered day in Yorkshire – but Murs undoubtedly remains adept at delivering exactly what his audience wants.