Peter Andre: Fairfield Halls, Croydon

And it’s one for the tummy 

Caroline Sullivan gets all worked up about Peter Andre

DEEP IN south London, Peter Andre is about to give the girls what they want. It’s midway through a 90-minute show at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls, and so far he’s kept his prized asset hidden under a series of loud cagoules. Then the lights suddenly go out. When they come back on, the Australian hunk is topless. His Calvins are peeking coyly over the top of his jeans, hinting at the floor-show underneath, but it’s his midsection — sorry, his “six-pack” — that’s inciting the flashbulb frenzy.

And what a six-pack. Hewn to the point where every muscle stands out as if made of plastic, it could provide its owner with a living as a medical-school specimen.

It seems a flimsy thing on which to base a career, but Andre’s tum has made him the biggest teen sensation of the moment, after Boyzone. Three number one singles attest to the power of a toned body, lubricated hair and — oh God, is that a nipple ring? Impossible to tell, because Andre never stops dancing. The kids dissolve into longing sobs and next to me the only adult male in the audience shakily mutters, “I need a drink.”

Andre isn’t the worst of the current boy-crop by any means. He has a clear, expressive voice that sounds much better live than on his debut UK album, Natural. But he is the most crassly marketed, his muscles shrieking ‘himbo’ while his album sleeve whispers “nasty cynicism” as it thanks the media for its help with “this project”.

But against the odds you actually end up liking him, if not enough to catapult a teddy bear onstage. Lacking Boyzone’s budget, he relies on singing, dancing and an apparently unfeigned love of his job. There’s a live band, a novelty in this DAT age, whose bassist thinks he’s playing with James Brown, but they might as well have saved themselves the air fare.

There’s an unflagging enthusiasm that keeps the proceedings a couple of levels short of contrivance. Whether he’s being truthful when he insists, “No matter what you’ve read, I definitely have not got a girlfriend”, he seems sincere. Inviting a girl up for the ballad ‘Take Me Back’, for instance, he goes the whole hog, nuzzling her neck and falling at her feet. Instead of telling him to get off the floor and stop being such a wuss, the thunderstruck 14-year old limply submits. When she returns to her seat, her mates grab her, mopping up stray beads of Peter perspiration.

More power to his six pack.

© Caroline SullivanThe Guardian, 22 March 1997

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