JLS at Edinburgh Castle review: Five star crowd proves everybody loves a bit of nostalgia and cringe

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I can’t claim to be a big JLS fan nowadays, but if you were to travel back in time to 2008, you would see that my 14-year-old self definitely was, for a short time at least. 

My best friend Lauren and I had watched them every week on The X Factor and we were incensed when they came second to Alexandra Burke in the final. 

Their first album - titled JLS - was on my Christmas list the following year, and I listened to it on repeat for months.

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We bought the jumpers - I had blue and she had yellow - and we couldn’t have thought we were any cooler when we both agreed to wear them to our PE class first thing on the following Monday morning.  Ah, hindsight.


As I walked up Castlehill on Tuesday evening, ready to see the band take to the Edinburgh stage for the second of the 2024 Castle Concerts, I could tell that I obviously wasn’t alone in having loved the band 16 years ago. 

Women and men around the same age as me donned the very jumpers I mentioned earlier as well as dresses in the band’s colours and JLS t-shirts, some of which were from the band’s first arena tour.

But unlike me, the thousands in the crowd had clearly retained their super-fan status. 

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They danced, clapped and belted out every lyric to the likes of Eyes Wide Shut and Hottest Girl in the World, while softer tracks Proud and Take A Chance on Me had everyone swaying in unison with their phone lights held in the air.

The weather can only be described as horrendous, with cold winds and persistent misty rain not having let up once in the band’s 90 minute set. But no one seemed to notice and if they did, they certainly didn’t care.

When Aston Merrygold said no crowd in the UK compares to those in Scotland, he was met with chants of ‘No Scotland, No Party’ - a chant with which the quartet, made up of Aston, Marvin, JB and Oritsé, then joined in. And the band played up even more to the Scottish crowds, having put on their best accents for a rendition of Ye Canny Shove Yer Granny Aff A Bus.

At around the halfway mark, the audience was treated to a DJ set, during which they played noughties classics including These Words by Natasha Bedingfield, Rihanna’s Umbrella and Baby by Justin Bieber. The whole arena was dancing and singing along, proving the band knew their audience and what they wanted to hear.

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Crowd favourites Beat Again and Everybody in Love came at the end of the show, with the latter still being sung by the audience as they made their way back down the Royal Mile at home time.

Going into the concert, my hope was that, after having not listened to JLS for almost half of my life, I would be served a heavy helping of nostalgia. And that, along with a decent dose of cringe, was exactly what I got. 

With empty seats and the weather being as bad as it was, the show had the potential to be a total wash out. But the band’s chemistry with the crowd, which made so much noise that you’d think it was a sell-out show, proved it was anything but.

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