Gig Review by Hayley Clark with Photography by Frank Ralph

In the five short years since last touring the UK Rita Ora is back with a bang on her comeback ‘Girls’ tour. Whilst many will remember her wit and charisma on tv as a mentor on both The Voice and X Factor, the hiatus from touring has shown how much the international superstar has to offer, from modelling and designing a colourful Adidas collection, philanthropy work and being cast as Mia Grey in the 50 Shades films. Manchester were in for a treat as this girl is on fire.

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Excited mainly female queues snaked around Manchester’s Academy venue as the sold out show brought a new dimension to girl power for the future generations.

Newcomer Kara Marni was the first of the two support acts, having released her first EP this week ‘Love Just Ain’t Enough’, she giggled letting the audience know how grateful she was for the chance to perform on the stage with her mentor and friend and joked how the floral two piece she wore she didn’t think through properly when she was bouncing about the stage to her own tracks ‘Curve’ and ‘Reach’. The audience clapped along to the 19 year old however the real wow moment was her cover of Childish Gambino’s hit ‘Redbone’, encouraging audience participation if they knew it , Kara’s vocals hauntingly resembled a young Amy Winehouse, she left the audience in awe as she exited the stage, definitely one to look out for over the next year or two.

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As the venue filled he PA system kept both the young and old audience engaged promoting the ‘Girls’ theme, as if Rita had picked the music to showcase female artists that were inspirational and rocked the music industry including obvious artists such as Chaka Khan and Rihanna and throwing in old school classics like Avril Lavigne’s ‘Complicated’ the audience joyfully sang along.

The lights dimmed and the crowd went wild, after being part of some of last year’s summer smashes Raye casually adorned the stage needing no introduction. Warming up the crowd for the main act she had them on their feet bouncing around to her hits’You don’t know me’,’By Your side’ and ‘Decline’ before slowing things down with an acoustic version of ‘Check’. The young crowd sang along playfully to latest track ‘Cigarette’ as the energetic set came to an end screams filled the venue.

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As the lights dimmed dancers appeared on the stage, in a breathtaking choreographed routine, shrills reaching fever pitch as Rita appeared in a feather and sparkly hoody with jewel encrusted white body underneath designed by Julian MacDonald opening with ‘Your Song’ the crowd instantly went wild.

“Thank you for coming Manchester” the icon interacted with the crowd, including antidotes of her day off in Manchester and being in some sort of football parade that divides the city of Red and Blue. From the start the crowd were captured and favourites such as ‘How We Do’. ‘Poison’ and ‘Body On Me’ left the teenage girls going wild before leaving mouths ajar with her slowed down smash ‘R.I.P’ seductively straddled on a chair before prowling across the stage.

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Temperatures reached fever pitch as the opening bars of latest hit ‘Girls’ started. Having received a lot of negative publicity over the lyrics since release Rita dedicated it to all the girls who work hard to get what they want off their own backs and do what they do themselves…. “some people just have to twist things if they don’t get it” as she gazed into the crowd smiling. Whilst yes the lyrics are a little risqué this is perfect bubblegum pop at its finest, with catchy chorus and female empowerment lyrics the Manchester Pride headline gives a positive view on bi sexuality and promoting it’s ok to explore if you have feelings when you are out partying and it is perfectly normal and nothing to be ashamed of, outing the taboo some people feel.

As Cardi B’s verse boomed Rita twerked stunningly and brought ip an audience member and her friends whose birthday it was as well as a female dancer playing football, giving a hat tip to her endorsement of women’s football earlier in the week as a representative.

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Leaving the grand finale of ‘Girls’ with an audience singalong of ‘Happy Birthday’ it was straight back to the non stop hits show keeping the audience enthralled. Even when the emotion looked to get the better of her understandably for ‘Lonely together’, her duet with the late Avicii,  the show carried on by encouraging the audience to join in as her eyes twinkled in the lights.

Manchester cried out for more with the finale of ‘Hot Right Now’ taking the audience back to where the summer all started as she catapulted into the charts with DJ Fresh before cooling down with the encore of ‘Anywhere’ and ‘For You’ seductively teasing her dancer who was trapped in a Perspex box longingly trying to get out.

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From start to finish the 27 year old was on fire, incredible vocals, entuasiastic dancers and bright graphics.

The new album releases in the summer with a headline return to the city in August. The wowed audience erupted as positive role model Rita praised them “Thank you so much for coming, see you at Manchester Pride”.

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Setlist: Your Song / Poison / I Will Never Let You Down / How We Do (Party) / Radioactive / Body on Me / R.I.P. / Summer Love / Soul Survivor / Girls / Doing It (Charli XCX) / Coming Home (Sigma) / Lonely Together (Avicii) / Black Widow (Iggy Azalea) / Hot Right Now (DJ Fresh) / For You (Liam Payne & Rita Ora) / Anywhere

See the complete photoset here.

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