If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, is generally a reliable motto on radio. Long-term listeners don’t like change and nor it seems does Chris Evans.
Evans first outing for Virgin Radio was little changed from his regular routine in Wogan House every morning for the last decade. His move from Radio 2 seems amicable, and he thanked his breakfast rival Zoe Ball – a re-run of their late ‘90s RAJAR battle – for a friendly text.
Evans was originally on Virgin Radio in the ‘90s, though the brand is now owned by Wireless/News UK.
Former team members at Radio 2 have joined him on the show, including sports reporter Vassos Alexander and Rachel Horne, who’s expanded from travel to news reading (Moira Stuart opted for her own show on Classic FM). Ellie Davis, executive producer, has also moved to the Virgin show with other Radio 2 Breakfast mainstays.
Regular features on Virgin Radio are taken from the previous show, including the Big Screen Belter (Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero, no less), Golden Oldie (The Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up) and the Gobsmacker. Even the jingles were the same - his Boo Radleys jingle actually dates back to Radio 1 in the mid-'90s.
When Evans actually played a record between his lengthy monologues and cod philosophy (remember the talk of climbing mountains as he quit Radio 2?), it was all pretty familiar. There were tracks from Queen, Oasis, Guns N’ Roses, Portugal The Man and Richard Ashcroft, who opened the show with a live rendition of Lucky Man.
There will be a Sky narrative on this show, there’s nothing wrong with that
Other flashback guests this week include KT Tunstall, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott and Texas. But it’s also a potential platform for younger artists – Evans played tunes from Blossoms, Ten Tonnes and Jade Bird (“hugely talented”) on the new show.
So Evans on Virgin Radio is pretty much business as usual; it’s even free of advert breaks thanks to a sponsorship deal from Sky. He sounded a touch defensive when he mentioned it, and it remains to be seen if listeners learn to live with the plugs for Sky TV shows that come with the deal.
“There will be a Sky narrative on this show, there’s nothing wrong with that,” said Evans. “We had a BBC narrative over on Radio 2… the Radio 2 Breakfast Show became more of a platform for BBC products. So this will be more of platform for Sky products, that’s all right.”
Perhaps the only significant change is the fact that Evans is now digital-only, a format shift he discussed in slightly overawed tones. While it feels like DAB has been around forever, he realised it may be mind-blowing for some Radio 2 regulars attempting to tune in. Unhelpfully, perhaps, Evans said he knew a couple of people who had bought new cars just to listen to him.
“It’s the future,” he promised.
It sounds like his future is on Virgin, as he pledged on-air to extend his contract from three years to five years. His station bosses have described Evans as a “master broadcaster”, and he certainly sounded refreshed after a month-long break.
Now’s he firmly back at his spiritual home, he’s just got to get his 9 million Radio 2 listeners to join him.