Gig review: Jason Derulo at First Direct Arena, Leeds

Jason Derulo at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
Jason Derulo at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
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They do say better late than never. Having originally been scheduled to hit up Yorkshire in mid-March, Jason Derulo’s arrival at Leeds’s First Direct Arena instead comes on a wintery autumn’s evening, the first chills of the post-Indian summer sweeping the North.

On stage however, the temperature is firmly set to hot – and then some. If his hype-man’s boisterous proclamation heralding him as “the new King of Pop” seems rather forthright, then the 29-year-old certainly expands the energy in living up to the edict.

Jason Derulo at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Jason Derulo at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Over a 90-minute blitzkrieg of R&B-tinged dancefloor jams, he delivers a bombastically proportioned big-league spectacular, the musical equivalent of a Fast & Furious movie; as subtle to a jackhammer and all the more deliriously daft for it.

Gigs like this can fall into self-parody if played straight but Derulo is self-aware enough to avoid such pitfalls by recognising the absurdity in his crassly sexed-up club anthems. If not quite the full triple threat, then the singer still offers pure theatre. He enters to a montage of him fighting lions in the desert and performs debut single Whatcha Say in Black Panther-esque tribal get-up; yet he sheds his fur almost immediately to let his quivering, bare-chested abs attract wild screams during a melismatic a capella intro to Don’t Wanna Go Home.

Wiggle’s dirty swagger offsets itself with a backbreaking dance routine that doesn’t skimp on the titular booty-shaking. When he unloads brass-flecked anthem Trumpets and electro-rock thumper In My Head to close out the first act, the singalong threatens to take the roof off. “Oh, you shouldn’t have,” he purrs as he slips on a zebra-skin coat with a wink.

In cramming so many hits in, Derulo does undercut himself; many songs are abridged to fit into the hyper-streamlined runtime and, though a power-balled selection of the swelling Marry Me, Secret Love Song and It Girl brings the house down – the latter complete with a blushing fan serenaded on stage – the second half becomes slowed by various acrobatic backing dancer routines to facilitate costume changes.

Jason Derulo at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Jason Derulo at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

But ever the showman, he rescues it in the home stretch; a full-throttle, writ-large The Other Side, Talk Dirty and Want to Want Me, complete with confetti cannons, ensure that nobody leaves without a dopey, adrenalized grin on their face.

As pretenders to the late Michael Jackson’s throne go, there aren’t many getting as close – and in such risibly entertaining fashion too.

Jason Derulo at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Jason Derulo at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff