COLUMN: April 25, 2013

I WILL never forget what I was doing when I discovered JLS were splitting up. I was reading about JLS splitting up.

I do not know if you know who JLS are, but they are a pop group made up of four young men, like the Beatles or the Four Tops. They came to prominence on a talent show on one of the commercial channels, like Lenny Henry.

And they are popular primarily with young girls, like Claire’s Accessories.

If you are now imagining a cross between the Beatles, Lenny Henry, and Claire’s Accessories, then you are remarkably close to what JLS are.

Sadly for their young girl fan base, the four gentlemen from JLS – short for Jack the Lad Swing, apparently – will be going their separate ways following their next tour and album, to spend more time with their money.

At this point, you are wondering, “How does this man know so much about JLS? What happened to the columns in which he writes about being hapless in a range of social situations? Has he turned into Paul Gambaccini?”

And there is a very simple answer. I know so much about JLS because I have seen them performing live.

About a year ago, I accompanied some female family members to a JLS concert. If I am brutally frank, I was not entirely looking forward to the trip, and as we wandered along the approach to the arena, I was confirmed in my reservations.

The mass of people pouring into the venue could be split fairly evenly into two tribes.

There were the early-teenage girls, and pre-teens aping them. They were all glittery and pink, with teddy bears featuring the names of JLS members.

And then there were The Women. They were just as glittery and pink, but with boob tubes and talons. They also had teddy bears featuring the JLS members’ names, but there was a whiff of voodoo about them. I suppose if JLS had a natural predator it would be these women.

I swept the area and came to the actually terrifying conclusion that I was the only person I could see who possessed a Y chromosome. I installed myself in between my womenfolk, partly as protection, and partly so that people could see I was with somebody, and not the sort of weirdo who turns up on his own to concerts jam-packed with pubescent girls.

I have been less comfortable in my time, but it has involved surgical procedures.

We entered the arena, bought some competitively priced drinks – if the competition were platinum and white diamonds – and took our seats.

I scanned the auditorium while the terrible support act attempted to entertain an audience who didn’t care that their new single was out on Monday as they had come to see JLS. Not one man to be seen. No boys either.

I have seen more males in a ladies’ toilets and I have never even been in a ladies’ toilets, not even by accident, unless you count that time I was unable to decipher the symbol on the door in that restaurant, and even then I only got as far as the air dryer.

After two more support acts – and the sense that this was less a concert and more a sales convention – on came the four JLS chaps.

I’d like to say that my cynicism was washed away by the sheer joy, brio and musicality of JLS, but I’m afraid it wasn’t. I was impressed by the one who kept doing back flips – if I were able to do a back flip, I assure you I would do it all the time too – and the ability of another to bring entire sections of the audience into bloom with a single thrust of his hips.

But they only appeared to have two songs, a fast one about being in a house, and a slower one about having one’s hands up, and they seemed to repeat them again and again over screaming. It was the worst time of my life, and I’ve watched people die.

When all seemed lost, a spotlight swept through the crowd, and picked out my saviour. It was a man with the same haunted look as mine.

I fixed my eyes on him, and he saw me when the light washed over me. And we shared a moment. I rolled my eyes, and he shrugged.

It was an eloquent expression of solidarity. I was no longer alone. I had a brother in suffering.

JLS should think about that before they all go solo.

On the other hand, they deserve everything they get.

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