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Gareth Gates

Sheffield Arena

The screens declare that for £9.99 you can join Gareth Gates's fan club and read his personal diary. Perhaps this week's entry will read: "It's been a while since I was pipped by Will Young to Pop Idol and this is my first solo tour. Sheffield Arena was barely half full." Encouragingly, hordes of teens cheer Gates's video image. More ominously, they show an unexpected grasp of irony by making similar noises towards some tulips.

A version of Unchained Melody - with Gates' helium vocals barely audible - sounds like the sort of thing used to flush South American dictators from hideaways. However, the cheers are deafening. When a delighted tot next to me catches my unimpressed, adult grimace I have this horrible feeling that I am ruining her show. Thus, for the next few songs I cheer Gareth wildly. "I'm a really bad dancer," he sighs. Yay! And then, amazingly, my own claps become less ironic.

Although Gates has been depicted in the tabloids as a Jordan-shagging raver, it's hard not to warm to a performer who can talk for minutes in an unaffected Bradford accent about disability, or not be touched as his supposedly overcome stammer makes a return. Gates is visibly, endearingly nervous, forgetting the chords on a keyboard. "I'm not playing live anyway," he sponatenously quips, showing an unexpected grasp of the ridiculousness of it all.

His music has less humanity, half of it suggesting some secret love for 1980s jazz-funk, although new track Go Your Own Way is a decent stab at blue-eyed soul. A cover of Suspicious Minds avoids the gates of Hell, he plays appalling rock guitar and surprisingly fantastic drums, but you wonder where his career can go when the kids grow up. But the tinnitus-inducing ovation suggests it might be a while before Gates's nightmare diary entry: "I've got this job in plumbing."

· At Manchester Arena tonight. Box office: 0870 190 8000. Then touring.