• Al Jennings

#LiveReview - Steps - What the Future Holds Tour 2021

The bars on Canal Street will have a quieter start to their Thursday trading hours with what seems like every gay man in Manchester and the surrounding area descending on the AO Arena as the mighty Steps brought their 2021 What the Future Holds Tour to the iconic venue. Joined by the “Queen of the Kitchen Disco” Sophie Ellis Bextor, the venue was packed to the rafters for the show which featured twenty-two of the 90’s pop sensations back catalogue ranging from the very early days to more recent hits from their albums “What the Future Holds Part 1 + 2”.

The quintet took us the thirteen thousand strong crowd on a time travelling adventure starting in the future with their 2020 club-banger, Sia-penned “What the Future Holds”. Performing with all the joy and gusto of their heyday the crowd were treated to classics such as “One for Sorrow”, “Neon Blue” and their recent collaboration with the legendary Michelle Visage; “Heartbreak in this City”. Whilst Visage didn’t make an appearance to perform her verse, the arena sung every line of every song.

The two-hour pop-juggernaut was clearly aimed at the casuals. Unlike 2017’s Party on the Dancefloor tour were not blessed with any deep-cuts from their back catalogue. With some reworkings over classic hits cleverly reimagined by long-term Kylie collaborator Steve Anderson. Whilst nobody here is reinventing the wheel, some of the older songs in their catalogue sounded fresh and these new arrangements were well liked by the crowd.

There were a couple of nice, unexpected surprises throughout the set-list. A nineteen sixties reimagined version of hit; 5, 6, 7, 8 and a new mix of “Better the Devil You Know” which was mashed together with Madonna’s “Vogue” including an updated rap paying homage to other nineties pop icons including J-Lo, Mariah Carey and Britney Spears which got the biggest cheer in the packed arena.

The two-hour concert is slick and moves incredibly well with not a dull moment throughout. The groups vocals are on point, and the harmonies sound incredible. Faye’s vocals shine on a stripped-down mix of “Heartbeat”, which was dedicated to a couple due to get married the next day following the show.

For a band that was written off as a one hit wonder, the What the Future Holds tour is a return to form for the band who next year will celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary. The show cements Steps as the UK’s best live pop act, and it’s about time that they were recognised as the national treasures they are.

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