Friday, May 1, 2009

Gig review: Girls Aloud, Belfast

EEEahaAAaarrrghaaaaahh, it's CHERYL COLE!!!! This is the ear-splitting, banshee reaction every time Cheryl sings a note, waves at the crowd, strikes a pose, inhales, exhales, blinks, swallows or in any way shows signs of not being a mannequin.

One of these girls is not like the others...

The last time we saw this kind of reaction was for Victoria Beckham at the Spice Girls reunion gigs which, coincidentally, Girls Aloud have copied for their stage entrance, with dancing silhouettes of each member projected across the arena on five huge video screens. The band then emerge from under the stage on wobbly rising podiums to sing The Promise, high over the crowd in sparkling white Julien MacDonald ballgowns.

Once they're safely de-harnessed, the show kicks off in earnest, with a ballsy selection of up-tempo tracks - Love Is The Key, Biology, Miss You Bow Wow - leaning heavily on their current album, Out Of Control.

After last year's Tangled Up tour, we complained that the girls had become too polished, with none of their scrappy, girl-next-door-made-good charms. Well, that's back this year. In spades. Sarah falls on her bum in the middle of Miss You Bow Wow, and spends the rest of the song creased up in laughter, eventually bringing down Cheryl (aahahararah, Cheryl!) too.

Nadine, meanwhile, spends the entire evening goofing around and waving at her family, who've shown up at the Odyssey Arena to lend their support. At one point, she even appears to ask a member of the crowd if they want to sleep with her.

I probably dreamt that bit later.

Musically, the band are much improved, too, with an all-new brass section and a lean, dynamic sound. The appalling "rawk" guitar solos of last year are gone, and earth-rattling drums are the order of the day. Sexy! No, No, No... performed, robot-style, on a tiny stage in the middle of the arena, and mashed up with Rihanna's Disturbia, is particularly breathtaking.

Time for the negatives, then: Cheryl, perhaps distracted by the constant screaming, is really badly off-key on more than one occasion. And, despite the umpteen reminders that the band have 21 singles ("where did all the time go?" asks Kimberley), they cram a few of their biggets hits (Wake Me Up, No Good Advice) into a medley, in order to make space for pointless covers of Broken Strings and Womanizer.

Although, having said that, we giggled when Sarah changed the lyrics to James Morrison's MOR behemoth to "you can't play on broken swings".

Minor gripes aside, this is a top-class production, from the glitzy costumes to the non-stop gyro-dancing. With the girls due to go "on a break" after their Coldplay support slot in September, you'd be well-advised to catch it when it rolls into your town.

1. The Promise
2. Love Is The Key
3. Biology
4. Miss You Bow Wow
5. The Loving Kind
6. Waiting
7. Love Machine
8. Rolling Back The Rivers In Time
9. Untouchable
10. Sexy! No, No, No...
11. Broken Strings
12. Love Is Pain
13. Call The Shots
14. Revolution In The Head
15. Sound Of The Underground
16. Fix Me Up
17. Womanizer
18. Something Kinda Ooooh

19. Medley: The Show, Wake Me Up, Jump, No Good Advice, Can't Speak French
20. The Promise (Reprise)

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