Hull Daily Mail Talent Trail - Grand Final 2003

Hull City Hall, Hull - Thursday 8th May 2003

A full turn out of 1,400 at the Hull City Hall was treated to a spectacular show of entertainment in this the final of the Hull Daily Mail Talent Contest, sponsored this year by Hull's Princes's Quay Shopping Centre.

The contest had been slightly curtailed this year, with only 16 heats, but not only the winner, but the runner up of each heat also progressed to the Semi Finals of which there were four in order to whittle the numbers down to a final 8. The running order was chosen at the beginning of the evening and the show opened with a spot by the Elderly Brothers ( effectively The Aces accompanied by Dr. Jive and Al Kilvington) and then it was on with the show proper.

First up was Martin Gregory Lambert a young man from Warrington in Lancashire who we had seen in one of the opening heats. Martin has a fine voice as he showed with his first songs - Don McLean's "Crying" and the Musical standard "This is the moment", but the thing that made Martin stand out from other equally talented singers is the dance routine in his final song, which can only be described as manic! He dances about the stage like a rhinoceros on speed, and whilst this is certainly not dancing in the Wayne Sleep mould, it invariably has the audience in fits of laughter and ends in rapturous applause. I've never seen Martin perform any more than 3 songs, but whilst there are Talent Contest experts who travel from town to town armed with 3 or 4 songs maximum, I suspect that Martin could hold an audience for an evening just as well as he could hold them for his allotted 3 songs. Despite being first on in this final, Martin put on a terrific performance and it was going to take something really special to beat him.
As introduced by compere Dave Norman, the second finalist - Andy Proctor from Leeds had been runner up on two previous occasions, and so there can be no doubting Andy's superb voice and excellent stage craft. However I sensed that maybe Andy was not on top form this evening, and whether it was following Martin, or whether there were other reasons, Andy seemed to be lacking a little spark.. His final song was an excellent cover of the Gladys Knight song "You're the best thing that ever happened to me" and whilst there was a minor glitch when Andy's microphone didn't work, this didn't detract from Andy's tremendous voice and excellent presentation.
"Just Good Friends" is a local Hull based duo made up of the stunning Lisa Kelsey, a solo entertainer of the highest calibre in her own rite, and previously a member of the female duo "Essense" and Lee Davison himself a solo singer and a member of the multi talented Davison family which includes father Dave, and brother Craig. Whilst this duo was not put together just for the Talent Contest, one of their first ever appearances had been in the heats and they had made a big impact with their suggestive dance routines and saucy patter in between, despite both having long term partners. Lee has a fine strong voice and has obviously worked hard on the dance routines, but it is what Lisa brings to the act that sets it apart. She not only has the good looks, but also as a talented musician her harmonies are excellent, and with nice dance routines and fabulous costumes (including a costume change for Lisa) they really are an excellent act, and if they can attract the right money (which is a little difficult without travelling out of the area on a regular basis) then they will go on to be one of the top acts in the area for many years to come. If their Hull City Hall performance lacked anything, it was maybe a real up-tempo number to contrast the slower songs, but I had no doubt that Just Good Friends were going to be right up at the top when the results were announced.
Although we had tried to see many of the heats, we were seeing Yanna for the first time this evening, and we were pleasantly surprised by this young lady from Boston in Lincolnshire who opened with a fairly modern song - Shakira's "Underneath your clothes". By way of a complete contrast, her second song was the old country standard "Stand by your man" and whilst variety can sometimes impress the judges, I rather suspect that this choice was more motivated by each contestants requirement to perform at least one song with the resident band. and she finished off with Whitney Houston's "I will always love you" Yanna moves well on stage, and has a very distinctive style of her own, and put on a terrific performance overall, but I suspected she was going to find it hard to compete with the very high standards set by the first three performances.

After the interval we were again treated to a new face to us in the shape of York based Tony Hamlett, a young man with good looks, a strong voice and an excellent song writing ability. Tony opened with a Michael Bolton song, which he performed excellently, and then chose Frank Sinatra's "That's Life" as his song with the band, before finishing with a self-penned song, which he dedicated to his late Father. If the judging in the final is on the same basis as the heats, then one of the categories is "Star Quality" and because of his song writing talents, I felt that extra credit should go to performers who write their own material, but since this has rarely happened before, I didn't expect it to happen, and although we were hugely impressed by Tony and his overall performance, again I didn't think he would be in the top 3 at the end of the night. (I met Tony at a party after the show had finished and he tells me he is working on a web site for performers for the benefit of Record Companies and talent scouts - when it is launched we will be delighted to plug the site, and encourage local entertainers to support Tony in his efforts) It is clear that Tony's ambition is to concentrate on the song-writing side of the business, and although I believe he will eventually be successful, it will be a sad loss to Clubland, because Tony is a talented performer.

We had run a "straw poll" on the website for a couple of weeks, and the favourite to win the final according to our poll was "Breakthrough" a young boy band made up of 4 local lads. Danny, Mike, Steve and Leroy are all fine singers individually, but as a group they have worked very hard to put together a very polished and professional act. I had seen them in one of the heats, and I had commented that I felt that Danny lacked a little enthusiasm when it came to the dance routines and moves, and they had obviously worked on this point since their overall syncronization was excellent. They opened with the song "Stand by me" from the film Dirty Dancing and then a superb a capella version of "In the still of the night" before finishing off with a nice four-way cover of Sinatra's old classic "My Way". Again, trying to be constructive, I would have liked either to hear them do either an original song or maybe a more recent song, and maybe something a little more up-tempo. I mention this not as a criticism, and I know that as a new band they are working very hard on new material, but here the boys were up against the very best talent, maybe in the North of England, and excellent though they are, they need to put themselves in the judges shoes and think what would they like to see and hear, and variety would come very near the top of that list. However since I seem to be splitting the acts into those who would or wouldn't be challenging for positions, I believed that Breakthrough had every chance of winning the whole contest.

Maybe here isn't the right place to mention this, but I have built up somewhat of a reputation for shooting from the hip, and since I regard all these lads as friends I hope they will take these next comments (which are nothing to do with the talent contest) in the spirit in which they are meant - which is to try and help them to success, however they define success. As I travel round Pubs and Clubs I talk to a lot of people, Landlords, punters, other acts and such like, and whilst I take some comments which I hear with a pinch of salt, and put it down to petty rivalry or malicious gossip, these boys have had some strong support from certain quarters when it has come to sponsorship and general encouragement. Their flyer boasts sponsorship from Peak Physique, Victoria Hotel (Robbie's), Trade Print Warehouse and Planet Earth, but they must learn very quickly that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and that when you make promises and committments, then these must be honoured. Unpaid loans and bills, not keeping to committments and generally being unreliable are not virtues that people look for when supporting new ventures and the lads must learn very quickly that the most successful businesses (for that is what they now are) are built not only on a good product which Breakthrough definitely has, but also on a strong clean image, both on and off stage and if they can work as hard on that side of the business, as they do on the stage performance, then these boys will go far. There endeth the sermon from Grandad Adam!!!

To say that there were so many entrants into this competition from other areas of the country, it is a strong testimony to the wealth of talent in Hull that so many local acts had won through to the final, and Wes Freeman and Neil Baker, both Hull lads, make up the excellent "Freeway" I think I am right in saying that Neil had achieved individual success by coming third in the contest a couple of years ago, but the boys have pooled their considerable talents, and are quickly becoming one of the best male duos in the area. Opening with The Eurythmics "Sweet dreams" they continued with an unusual choice of a song called "The Working Man" before finishing with Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge over Troubled Water". Wes's lower range voice blends superbly with Neil's higher range and harmonies and they received excellent support from the packed City Hall. I was a bit undecided in my own mind as to whether their performance was good enough to actually win the contest - they certainly have the talent, but just like Andy Proctor earlier in the night they maybe lacked that spark on the night to carry the judges's vote. We would see!
If it is possible to say that there was an outsider in this event, then I suppose you'd have to say it was Michelle Louise. We have seen and judged Michelle in lesser contests than this one, where she had failed to win, and whilst there can be no doubting her stunning good looks, and lovely personality, she was thrilled to have even won her heat, so only in her wildest dreams could she have expected to win against such esteemed competition. Well anyway that is what the script said. Fortunately Michelle Louise didn't bother to read the script, and although she'd apparently spent most of the day in a state of emotional trauma, she arrived on stage in a beautiful gold number made, she said, by her Grandma, and proceeded to take the Hall by storm. She explained that she'd decided not to worry, and go out and enjoy herself, and in doing so she took the audience with her, as she chose Kelly le Roc's "My love" for her friends, and then finished off with a superb live version of Randy Crawford's "Streetlife" ripping off her skirt (Buck's Fizz style) to reveal a matching pair of gold trousers underneath (shucks!) and to bring the overall contest to a close. Having thought to myself early in her spot, that I hoped that she did credit to herself, and enjoyed the occasion, I was now left with a genuine feeling that Michelle had sung her way into a chance of winning the competition overall.
Whilst the judges retired to deliberate, we were then treated to a spot by Hull's number one comedian Andy Wilkins who was appearing in his 7th Talent Trail Final night, and just keeps getting better and better. Lack of top management can be the only reason that Andy hasn't reached the very highest heights in the entertainment business in my humble opinion, because in front of a packed Hull City Hall, and with the vast majority having seen him before, he kept the audience spell bound with his quick wit, his comic expressions and his excellent timing. Andy is launching his own web site shortly, and maybe, just maybe that could give him the opportunity to have his face and talents in front of the sort of people who can present Andy's talent's to a national TV audience, after which Andy can only go on to become a household name. I love him, I love his act, and I love him as a person (calm down Elaine, I'm not that sort of a boy, there was only ever that one occasion....) and I just wish that Andy could reach a wider audience for his considerable talents.
Final entertainment for the evening was from Jasmin, a young lady from Boston in Lincolnshire who had won the Hull Daily Mail "Soundalike" contest which had run alongside the Talent Trail, and she put on a superb tribute to Shania Twain, arriving on stage in long coat and top hat with "Man I feel like a woman" and disrobing bit by bit to a little black dress as she sang "That don't impress me much". As tribute artistes go, this was just about as good as it gets, and whilstever Shania Twain is still one of the world's hottest performers, I can see Jasmin reaping the rewards for many years to come.
After deliberation it was to hear the judges verdicts, and although I don't recall hearing the judges names being announced, I am sure that they were a fair representation of the Music business in this area. The obligatory thanks were made by Hull Daily Mail Assistant Editor Paul Hartley to sponsors Princes's Quay Shopping Centre, organiser Liz Hugill of McLeod Holden, compere Dave Norman, the band Terry Bell, Phil Webber, Gary Gillyet and the bass player (help someone!) and then it was time for Mike Killoran of Princes Quay to present the prizes:
In reverse order 3rd and a cheque for £ 250 to Breakthrough
2nd and a cheque for £ 500 to Michelle Louise
and the Winner and Cheque for £ 1,500 to Martin Gregory Lambert

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