Monday, March 4, 2013

Review: Girls Aloud Ten Tour at the O2


I'm now a veteran of six (!) Girls Aloud tours, with the glowstick burns to prove it. As anyone knows, the main task upon leaving a Girls Aloud concert is to decide which girl is the best girl in Girls Aloud. Here's how it worked out last night.


1) THE SINGING
Oh dear. The vocals were decidedly wobbly on Sunday night. There were missed cues, sharp harmonies, and ad-libs that sounded like a plane full of mating cats going into a nosedive (I'm looking at you, Sarah). In the band's defence, their voices were a bit fragile after performing four shows in three days - as Nadine explained on Twitter, there'd been an extra run-through for the cameras on Saturday afternoon, as the show was filmed for a DVD.

Poor Nicola could be seen clutching her throat in between her lines - but when she let rip, she was incredible. A vampish "always thought you were so cool" in Wake Me Up was an early highlight, but when she practically burst into tears during Beautiful Cause You Love Me, it sent shivers up my spine.

Verdict: Nicola wins.


2) THE COSTUMES
Top marks to the designers on this tour. Gone were the spangly bikinis and luminous unitards of previous outings, replaced by elegant-yet-sexy basques and Oscar-worthy ballgowns. The bulk of the credit goes to Vicky Barkess - a wardrobe mistress on Strictly - who designed the costumes for the feather-tastic carnival section (the one where Cheryl had angel wings) and the Supremes-inspired 60s outfits. And who wore it best?


Verdict: Nicola wins.



3) ON-STAGE BANTER
Girls Aloud tours are not known for their Wildean repartee and quotable bon mots. There was a lot of thanking the fans, and saying how "unbelievable" it was to have spent 10 years together. Sarah made a good start, screaming "Big Mouth Is Bloody Back", but then lost her nerve.

So it was up to Nadine and her garbled Derry accent to give us the night's best lines, including the she-actually-can't-speak-French classic: "Wurr gonta take it back for youse to circa la 2004".

Later, as she introduced Call The Shots, Nadine inadvertently revealed her opinion of the band's back catalogue, declaring: "Now, this one's a really good one."

Verdict: Nadine wins.



4) CHOREOGRAPHY
Weirdly, the show made no use of Cheryl's athletic body-popping or Kimberley's Strictly dance chops, but there were a few nice touches - especially during the b-stage section. Constricted to a smaller space, the girls performed a complicated interweaving routine for Untouchable focused around some pleasingly intricate hand choreography. The line "we're beautiful robots dancing alone" led to a brief outburst of robot dancing. Nice.

Verdict: Group win.




5) INTERACTION
For all of the tabloid stories of inter-band rivalries, Girls Aloud have always seemed a closely-knit unit. Nowhere is this relationship more evident than with Cheryl and Kimberley. Ms Cole was constantly trying to distract her bandmate, giving her a hefty wallop on the bum during one of her solo lines, and pulling stupid faces while she talked to the crowd.

Then, during the encore, the band sang I'll Stand By You. When they got to the line "I’m a lot like you", Cheryl And Kimberley turned and gave each other a big hug. Ahhhhh.

Verdict: Cheryl and Kimberley win.


6) MUSICALITY
The Ten Tour is a jaunt through Girls Aloud's greatest hits and, by that token, it probably has the best set-list of their career, taking a vaguely chronological run through their biggest singles. Interestingly, the early hits all seemed to be in a much lower register than the likes of Call The Shots and The Promise, which certainly didn't help with those aforementioned vocal problems - but it was interesting to see how the lead vocals got divided up as the media focus on the band members changed (ie Cheryl got to sing a lot more in the X Factor years).

The band, led by the brilliantly-named Paul Beard, took an organic approach to the arrangements, with a loose, live band feel that freshened up some of the more familiar numbers. There was even *gasp* a jazz guitar solo in Can't Speak French.

The usual suspects provided the highlights - Something Kinda Ooooh is a perfect thump to the middle of your chest; Call The Shots made 20,000 people swoon; and, after all these years, it's still impossible not to jump to Jump. The band kept alive the tradition of throwing in a recent cover song (Call Me Maybe) to prove how much better their own material is, and Wake Me Up still provides ample opportunity for the quintet to toss their hair in front of a wind machine.

Music is the real winner here, but I'm giving the prize to the only Girl Aloud with a writing credit for last night's set.

Verdict: Nicola wins.

So there you have it. Nicola Roberts is currently the best girl in Girls Aloud. But it could all change, depending on when and where you see the show (NB: nobody sees the show unless their hearts say so). If you're at any of the subsequent dates, put your verdict in the comments box. Or just look at the pretty pictures. It's entirely up to you.

















(images via Pingufivemins, dark1angel and Nuno Goncalves)

SETLIST
Act 1
Sound Of The Underground
No Good Advice
My Life Got Cold
Wake Me Up
Jump

Interlude (Models music video)

Act 2
The Show
Love Machine
Whole Lotta History
Can’t Speak French
Biology

Act 3 (b-stage)
Sexy! No No No
Untouchable
On The Metro
Call The Shots

Act 4
Something Kinda Ooh
Call Me Maybe (cover)
Beautiful 'Cause You Love Me
Something New

Encore
I’ll Stand By You
The Promise

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