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The Spice Girls: Wembley Stadium

June 19, 2019

(seen at the performance on 13th June 2019).

For various reasons during the 1990s when the quintet were at the height of their fame, I was a little side-lined by it all. Personal stuff and not really liking the zeitgeist, I went so far as every other heterosexual male between 8 and the grave in picking a favourite Spice (and she still is) and knowing what to do if you wanted to be her lover (still isn’t, the instruction is too hard to follow as I don’t know any of her friends). That, and knowing what they really, really wanted and when to stop thank you very much was about as far as it went.

Still, I was curious when the reunion tour was announced, enough to invest – and it was a pretty hefty investment – in a ticket. Turns out, it re-paid every single penny, with interest.

By contrast with the horrible O2 visitor experience, where concert attendees were an inconvenience to be fleeced and abused at every opportunity, Wembley Stadium made everybody feel like a special guest, and I lost count of the staff wishing me “enjoy the concert.” Few lines, sensible and effective security, friendly stewards, clean loos, what more could you want? So, already in a good mood before the show even started.

The mood was even better as Jess Glynne took to the stage for a 40 minute set. Such is her ability, Ms Glynne could have been the headline act herself (and I’ll happily be there when she one day is, as she will be).

Kicking off with “Hold My Hand” (yes, please), and “No One,” a cover of Rudimental’s “These Days” followed. My personal favourite “Thursday” hit every corner of the stadium and changed the tone to lead into “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself,” a faster version of the previous introspection. “One Touch” of course had the crowd excited before the early and wonderful “Take Me Home.” A triple of “So Real (Warriors) / Real Love / My Love and Rather Be” ran into “All I Am.” She is. Finally, the biggie “I’ll Be There” sent us into the break with something special to remember her by.

Main event, and a clever “pre-show” saw mini-versions of the quartet wander around the stage and passerelle (is that even relevant at a pop concert – a stage runway encircling the lucky few standing in the “golden circle” in front of the stage?) either way… other members of the backing dance team joined them until, about ten minutes later, the famous 4 were there in person.

Each had their own “backing team,” Emma’s in pink, Mel B’s leopards, Sporty’s track-suited posse and Gerri’s Royal Household. They posted and postured and showed off a real highlight of the evening – the first of many, many exquisite costumes, details visible even from a seat near the half-way line where I was.

Even better, few signs of the sound issues seized on with vicious glee by the press. Sure, once or twice a little reverberation, and the odd microphone coming on late, but that was all. The vocals themselves were strongest from Mel C, with Emma managing the odd decent solo. For those who live without sound, it was hugely impressive that there was a sign language interpreter for people at the front of my block. Massive applause to all for thinking of them.

The Spice Girls themselves must have spent hours in the Spice Gym because they were all spectacularly “match fit” with energy and bags of stamina. Opening the only way they could, “Spice Up Your Life” lead into “If U Can’t Dance” before their first chat with the audience. The banter and bitching between them was hilarious, and if (again) the press were stirring it perceiving a rift – it wasn’t one I noticed. The ladies did well alone, in pairs and as a group to keep moving around the stage, reaching out to all in Spice World.

“Do It” and “Something Kinda Funny” went down – first fireworks and confetti cannon of the night – well before the first major costume change was covered by dancers (wish they had been real acrobats) to “Move Over.”

One of the few moments showing their age came with the next sequence “Holler / Sound Off.” The phrase, “Just girl power is all we need. We know how we got this far. Strength and courage in a wonderbra,” in huge letters running across the screens and encouraged to be chanted by the crowd just seemed anachronistic in the #metoo era. Woman, thanks partly to this group, are slowly working on and finally getting beyond that now, and it seemed a detrimental throwback.

Another dance break “Queer Tango” united us, before “Viva Forever” kicked in. “Let Love Lead The Way” lit up the crowd with phone-torches, and as the evening light dimmed, wrist bands handed out free came into play. Each equipped with multi-coloured LED lights and linked to the lighting designer’s computer, the effect was special as the crowd’s lights changed colours – sometimes just a single section at a time.

No digs at anyone, “Goodbye” was up next, this time a simple and honest expression of loss. One more gap “Car Wash” before the team were back to tell us “Never Give Up on the Good Times.” More banter, before they reminded us that “We Are Family” in a short and pretty amusing Sister Sledge cover. “Love Thing” was an appropriate response.

Bitching at its best between them as we met the band and sang along with “We Will Rock You.” The slightly obscure “The Lady Is a Vamp” (with great backing projection of ‘old time movie theater canopy’) before “The Last Waltz” dance break covered the penultimate costume change of the night.

The big hits, “Too Much,” “Say You’ll Be There” and “2 Become 1” were fired at us, and landed squarely.

Several minutes of close-up video, with the women expressing thoughts and ideas gave them a chance to rev up one more time and smash the closing 15 minutes. An entire audience enacting “Stop,” before we were reminded that they are all now parents (but were not when they wrote) “Mama.”

Brilliant direction thus ensured the crowd’s mood and pace were right to close the evening with “Wannabe,” fireworks breaking as we swore that friendship would never end.

Goodbye my friends indeed. Two quality hours of entertainment, enough “Girl Power” to run a city for years – hopefully until they consider another reunion (jack dress or four) in fact.

 

5 stars.

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