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It is never a good sign when the main attraction asks the audience if they are having fun.
“Do you want your money back?” Nelly Furtado joked a couple of songs later, with a staccato burst of nervous laughter. Her fans whooped encouragingly but there was no way back for this slowly deflating concert.
The problem was not with the material so much as with its execution. The bulk of the set wisely drew on Furtado’s 2006 album Loose, which saved her ailing career by teaming her up with the Midas-like hip-hop producer Tim “Timbaland” Mosley.
His inventive beats and Nelly’s spirited vocals marked Loose out as one of last year’s best pop releases, crowned by the magnificently deranged R&B anthem “Maneater”.
Sadly, the Canadian- Portuguese singer failed to recreate Loose’s atmosphere on stage. Her unsubtle, over-amplified band made a hash of Timbaland’s clever arrangements. Furtado’s voice, which on record slips easily between a nasal R&B style and sweet pop crooning, sounded brash and over eager. Worst of all was the choreography, with dancers lurching around the stage like binge drinkers during uptempo numbers and wrapping each other in passionless clinches for the ballads.
The set began busily but soon sunk into a suite of slow songs that drained it of momentum. “You know me, I don’t like to do the same thing twice,” Furtado told us brightly, a boast that acquired ghastly significance during a dire jazz reworking of “Showtime”, which vied with her inane football song “Forca” as the set’s low point.
Matters improved, perhaps tellingly, when her backing singer stepped forward to lead an energetic cover of a Justin Timberlake song. Furtado, in spite of her willingness and dippy likeability, failed to bring the same vigour or focus to her performance, apart from during the closing numbers, “No Hay” – a storming Latin-pop track – and the supreme “Maneater”, which sounded as if it could be the soundtrack to a female praying mantis biting the head off her male mate.
The rest of the show, though, was toothless. ★★☆☆☆Tel 870 606 3400