Amidst the usual thanks to the fans for their support, Ian “H” Watkins – a performer still likeably possessed of the same qualities as a Blue Peter puppy – reeled off a list of his group’s recent achievements: a No 1 compilation album, 20 sold-out arena dates and a television show currently in the filming.
That’s not bad going for a group conceived as a novelty act who are as well known for others’ songs as their own.
Although this decade-later reunion tour saw the well-preserved quintet in perhaps not as fresh-faced a light as before, a crowd comprised of young and old and their traditional mix of straight and gay fans seemed thrilled by what they saw and heard.
Tracks bedded in commercial Hi-NRG house like Summer of Love, One For Sorrow and the rollerdisco-kitsch Stomp were abetted by a troupe of piston-limbed dancers, while a series of solo cover spots midway through milked contemporary tastes, including Lee Latchford-Evans’s swaggering Moves Like Jagger, Lisa Scott-Lee’s take on commercial club hit Heaven and Watkins’s Redcoat-cheery Don’t Stop Believin’. Claire Richards, whose struggle with weight gain has been a source of tabloid titillation, received anything but a sympathy cheer for her stunning take on Celine Dion’s I Surrender.
In fairness, there was perhaps an over-reliance on covers, expected or otherwise, including Kylie Minogue’s Better the Devil You Know, Diana Ross’s Chain Reaction, the open goal that is Dancing Queen and their old favourite, Tragedy. Yet they’ve never pretended to be any more than bubblegum pop crowd-pleasers, and this show certainly met the description.