Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball with Barclaycard is an annual celebration of the very best in pop.
The two-day bash at London’s O2 Arena has been headlined by the likes of Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Coldplay and Justin Bieber in recent years, but despite rumours about Taylor Swift, Beyoncé or SZA putting in a surprise appearance, it was left to Alicia Keys to close out the Saturday night.
Her sleek set of greatest hits was a powerful showcase of Keys’ superstar status, with soaring tracks like Girl On Fire and Empire State Of Mind comfortable, timeless classics that turned the sold-out venue into a massive karaoke session. Things don’t come more festive than that.
Described as the UK’s biggest Christmas party, Jingle Bell Ball 2023 was more a sugar-fuelled school disco than a boozy office blowout though, with families making up a bulk of the audience.
Jax Jones’ ‘90s-inspired DJ set kept the parents entertained while a surprise appearance from Sam Ryder allowed the kids to show of the Tik-Tok-ready dance routine they’d just been taught by a troupe of dancers.
Elsewhere, noughties guitar heroes Busted provided a present for everyone with their syrupy teenage anthems.
The trio might be pushing 40, but there was a giddy, youthful abandon to their nostalgic performance. 20 years into their career, Busted are still the perfect band to introduce a new generation to guitar music.
It was the new wave of talent who really stole the show though. ArrDee’s cheeky chappie rap and Tom Grennan’s vibrant indie pop were both delivered with a rockstar swagger, while Becky Hill got the party started early with a batch of house-inspired bangers that offered euphoria by the bucketload.
The O2 was once a second home for Little Mix, with the girl group performing at the venue over 20 times throughout their career, but Saturday night saw Leigh-Anne return to the stage for the first time as a solo artist.
Performing her two tropical pop singles My Love and Don’t Say Love alongside an emotional cover of Wham’s Last Christmas, it was a confident showing that lived up to her impressive legacy while suggesting there’s plenty more greatness to come.
The biggest cheers were saved for Tate McRae though, who caused sheer pandemonium when she strutted onto the stage and performed an explosive She’s All I Wanna Be.
That excitement continued through the quiet rage of breakout single You Broke Me First, while the entire venue seemed to know the words to jubilant smash hit Greedy. Alongside the impressive dance breaks and a powerful sense of self, McRae is a new generation’s pop superstar.
With bucketloads of confetti, non-stop pop anthems and even a raffle, Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball 2023 was a family-friendly festive party that was at its best when it looked to the future.