If it wasn’t for Since U Been Gone, I wouldn’t have listened to Kelly Clarkson. Or bought her records. Or covered SUBG with Ah Lian Hot Pants at the GIG@Sheffield in ’06. I don’t watch American Idol (that was like ten years ago for Che’ Clarkson), or any Idol/X-Factor/Britain’s Got Talent. She’s got a good voice and I like her down-to-earth demeanour. Her records pretty much contain good pop music and if you check her list of producers and songwriters from Max Martin, Kara DioGuardi to Katy Perry, you won’t be surprised.

I saw Che’ Clarkson with my bandmates during the time we were preparing for the first Sheffield gig in 2006 when she swung by this neck of the woods. The arena was filled with teenage girls/young women, we can attest to that. So, when I arrived to see Che’ Clarkson again two weeks ago in Manchester, the crowd was a tad older. Still largely female, though. And likely to be the same teenage girls in ’06, only that they are now all grown up. The opener for Kelly was a four-piece from Barbados called Cover Drive. Yup, they can sing, play their instruments and dance, but they tried too hard with the “Manchester, I hear that you guys are the loudest crowd in the UK” gag. Especially when this is the first night of their UK leg of the tour. Come to think of it, Kelly’s opener in ’06 wasn’t that impressive either. Called themselves The Faders and if I’m not mistaken they’ve already faded into obscurity like their namesake.

Che’ Clarkson came onstage in a black Ozzy Osbourne tee at 9-ish, kicking off with My Life Would Suck Without You from her 2009 record. I know that when one goes to see a gig that at the end of the day it’s the music that matters. This wasn’t an elaborate Lady Gaga set and I wasn’t expecting it, but, man, something about her setup onstage at the arena just didn’t cut it. I would’ve liked to watch her at a smaller venue (she did her 2008 and 2010 shows at the Manchester Apollo). I looked around and noted that the upper tier was pretty much curtained off.

Che’ Clarkson’s voice that night didn’t disappoint, belting out Hazel Eyes and I Forgive You, the first song from her current record sung in her setlist. Like all her shows, Kelly would do a couple of covers, the first one being fun.‘s We Are Young which saw her and backup singers (one of the girls, Jill, play guitar!) singing on a raised ministage just in front of the FOH engineers in the middle of the arena. Kelly did Don’t You Wanna Stay, a lovely country-styled tune which she duetted with Jason Aldean, whose holographic image was projected on what looked like a crumpled bedsheet. Aiseyman was the best I could utter. Could’ve been better, tuan stage director. Another cover Kelly sung, appropriately chosen too, was Oasis’ Wonderwall, which she partly did Ryan Adams’ style. My favourite song of the evening was the Avril Lavigne-penned Breakaway:

Che’ Clarkson has a greatest hits record coming out in November this year which will include Catch My Breath which she also sang before ending the main set with a resounding Since U Been Gone. For the encore, she sang an interestingly acoustic version of the caustic Never Again. The montage during Mr. Know It All pretty much took a stab at the various tabloid jibes aimed at her throughout the career and had the ladies in the audience going all out with the sing-along, before finishing off the evening with Miss Independent and Stronger. Again, like the ’06 show, it was pretty short (and sweet) – the gig ran at about an hour and a fifteen-ish minutes.

MEN Arena, Manchester set 12.10.12: My Life Would Suck Without You / Behind These Hazel Eyes / I Forgive You / Dark Side / Walk Away / You Love Me / We Are Young (fun. cover) / Already Gone / Don’t You Wanna Stay / Wonderwall (Oasis cover) / Because of You / Breakaway / Catch My Breath / Since U Been Gone // Never Again / Mr. Know It All / Miss Independent / Stronger