Jo O’Meara (SClub7) Acoustic Special

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Last Show: Sunday 19 th February 2023

PizzaExpress Live (Holborn)

The resurgence of former S Club 7 star Jo O’Meara feels simultaneously like the return of an old friend and a brand new start. The unmistakable voice that made the likes of ‘Never Had a Dream Come True’ and ‘Reach For The Stars’ such classic, era-defining pop smashes is back with a bang. Yet the intervening years have seen Jo’s voice grow in maturity and elegance, and she now possesses an assured self-confidence that had eluded her the first time around.

Exclusive VIP ‘Soundcheck Experience’ tickets available to witness Jo O'Meara perform the last two songs of her soundcheck (please arrive at 5.45pm prompt for this). Tickets: £30 each / Exclusive VIP Soundcheck and Meet & Greet Experience Tickets: £50 each

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Jo O’Meara still speaks fondly of Collier Row, the Essex housing estate just north of Romford, where she grew up. “It’s one of those places you could leave for twenty years,” she says, “then you’d come back and immediately feel like you’re home.”

It’s nearly twenty years since Jo left the band that propelled her to international success, and sixteen years since the release of her debut album Relentless. But to an entire generation With Love, the sensational new album from one of British pop’s most distinctive voices, will immediately feel like going home. “It’s been my dream for so long to make this record,” Jo smiles. “Although sixteen years is quite a lot of life to cover in one album…”

At the start of 2020 Jo found herself at something of a crossroads. She’d had a blast over the previous few years, touring the world with former bandmates banging out decades-old hits, but there was an impulse, she realised, to give her vocal cords a bit of a stretch. A friend suggested she contact Brian Rawling, the Grammy-winning producer with whom she’d last worked on Relentless back in 2005. “I was scared of getting back in touch,” Jo admits. “I was frightened of rejection, I suppose.” She inboxed him anyway. He replied within five minutes, and by Friday that week Jo was in his studio. “He just went: ‘Let’s do it! Let's make an album and jump straight in’,” she remembers. “And then lockdown happened.”

The complexities of 2020 only made Jo more determined to make the album happen. “A lot of people spent last year analysing what they wanted to get out of life,” she adds, “and I knew that what I wanted was to get myself back into the only thing I know how to do well: music.” And so, in the gaps between lockdowns and on further sessions via Zoom, she and Brian made it work. “I put my heart and soul into the music,” Jo says. “Everything I've got is in this album.”

Though the voice may be instantly familiar, the Jo O’Meara we’re reunited with in 2021 — reflective, affectionate and expressive — may seem very different to 21-year-old Jo S-Club we met at the tail end of the last millennium. In fact, the Jo we meet today is who Jo was all along. “Jo S Club was suppose to be the ‘ballsy blonde’ of the band,” she laughs today. “She was bossy, mouthy, and the leader of the pack. It was easier to hide behind that character because beneath it all I was incredibly shy and lacking in confidence.”

S Club’s achievements barely need repeating, but they included four UK Number Ones, numerous multi-platinum albums, two Brit awards, multiple arena tours, one Oscar-snubbed movie and several TV series watched by 90 million people in 100 countries, leading to many of their songs becoming global hits. But while S Club may have been one of the most painstakingly packaged pure pop outfits of the 90s, it’d be a mistake to feel its members, particularly Jo, hadn’t put in some serious legwork.