Behind the scenes at the Sounds Like Friday Night premiere

Behind the scenes at the Sounds Like Friday Night premiere

The sense of anticipation is tangible in the green room at BBC Television Centre, a little over an hour before the broadcaster's new live music show, Sounds Like Friday Night, premieres across the UK.

BBC Radio 1Xtra's Dotty is relaxed and confident, while her co-host, Radio 1's Greg James, is all smiles ahead of what must rank as the biggest night of both presenters’ careers.

We, the assembled press pack, are transported to the main arena, a well-lit, industrial industrial-looking set, featuring balconies either side of the dancefloor.

Warm-up guy Stuart Holdham, a veteran of live broadcasts such as Strictly and The Voice, is no stranger to the big occasion but declares tonight has left him “sweating like Joey Essex on Mastermind”. There’s a lot riding on this series - BBC One’s first dedicated pop music show since Top Of The Pops ended 11 years ago. If SLFN fails to make the grade, one wonders if the powers that be will ever roll that dice again.

Holdham lays down some ground rules: no phones, no waving at the camera and definitely no dad dancing, before Dotty and James make their entrance and bring out the night’s star co-host Jason Derulo, who performs a number exclusively for the live crowd. 

The opening credits roll and tonight's stars are introduced one-by-one. There's Jason Derulo (big cheer), Charlie Puth (big cheer), Jessie Ware (pretty big cheer) and Dave Grohl (modest cheer), who appears alongside James in a pre-recorded comedy sketch.

The performances, without exception, are faultless, but the skits, starring Grohl, Derulo and Kurupt FM, are largely greeted with indifference, despite raising the odd titter.

Derulo’s acoustic take on Want To Want Me – his second song of the evening - ensures the live broadcast ends on a high note (in more ways than one), much to the relief of his co-hosts. James puffs out his cheeks; Dotty salutes the audience, arms aloft. The pair may have made their name in radio but both look to have big futures in TV.

Music Week catches up with them backstage soon after. Dotty is first out and responds to feedback from her No.1 fan. “My mum’s already started,” she laughs. “It was insane. Stepping on the stage and doing live TV for the first time on such a big occasion, I was probably the most nervous.”

On those inevitable TOTP comparisons, she adds: “The only similarity is it’s a BBC music show. People now that they’ve seen the first episode will realise it’s a lot more than just music performances.”

A satisfied James follows soon after, his phone bombarded with WhatsApp messages from friends and family. “I’m going to watch it back just to see how it flowed together but in the studio it felt great and the crowd seemed to be pretty into all the different bits," he observes. "I felt like it was quite a confident start. There’s no reason why these enormous artists shouldn’t have a home on TV.”

Naturally, it didn't please everyone - the most frequent complaint being a lack of actual live music - but SLFN episode one should go down as a qualified success and the remainder of its six-week run is shaping up nicely.

“I suppose there would be people waiting to see what the first one was like," muses James. “So we’re really thankful to Jason, to Jessie and to Charlie - and Dave Grohl as well - that they went, ‘let’s give it a go’.

“This would be a great show for any of our big exports and it would be great to get someone like Sam [Smith] or Ed [Sheeran] or Adele. And [Taylor] Swifty – if we can get her out of that kebab shop… Obviously those sorts of people are always on our lists but we’re pretty happy with who we’ve got so far."

If the series launch was a little light on genuine household names then next week’s programme - featuring London Grammar and the two Liams (Payne and Gallagher) - looks a much safer bet. Friday night can't come soon enough...

Read Music Week's armchair review of the first episode here and find out what the biz wants from the new show here.

Click here to revisit our Sounds Like Friday Night cover story.

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