a1: London Astoria G-A-Y

a1 just aren't gay enough for G-A-Y...

Success should have gone to their pretty young heads by now. But even after two number one singles and surely a third with new release ‘No More’, a1 are still the nicest boys in pop.

They’re probably the most talented boys in pop, too. Everyone from Westlife to BBMak makes claims to artistic integrity, but Ben, Mark, Christian and Paul really do play their own instruments, co-write their own songs and sing note-perfect live and they’re out to prove it tonight. They don’t just bring DAT backing tracks, like many a G-A-Y act does. They also bring microphones that are switched on at all times plus a piano and a guitar that are clearly plugged in.

Obviously they’re here to promote ‘No More’, but their infectious love of performing keeps them on stage for eight songs. Vocals are spot on, dance moves so finely polished *N Sync ought to be worried, stage presence so strong they make support act Allstars (a three-girl/two-boy bouncy pop combo culled from forthcoming SMTV slot Star Street) seem like Scooch wannabes.

What they’re lacking, though, is sex appeal and guidance when it comes to the choice of songs. This is a gay club, so you need a bit of steam – and Ben’s partially see-through t-shirt just isn’t enough to generate heat amongst a crowd of sexual vultures hungry for young meat, not nice boys they can take home to mummy. And this is a gay club, so why on earth would any act cover a couple of Beatles songs when there’s a whole catalogue of Stock Aitken Waterman classics to trawl through?

a1 are musical bright sparks and, as the closing hi-energy workout of ‘Take On Me’ proves, they’re doing a lot to liven up a mainstream music scene that desperately needs it. Now all they need to do is learn how to play a crowd as effortlessly as they play their instruments.

Simon Button