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THE Sugababes are now firmly a brand rather than a band, as demonstrated by the recent induction of Amelle Berrabah to replace Mutya Buena, the best friend of Keisha Buchanan (who is now the band's only remaining founder member).

They're a pop group, so some degree of artifice was always going to find its way into their makeup. Yet for a group who once so effortlessly displayed a girlish onstage togetherness that no other could match, this show was all about mark-finding, tedious ballad interludes and sticking to the script. In fairness, Berrabah is still learning the ropes, and - while her conversation with the crowd was minimal - her vocal contribution was brash and diva-esque, a new counterpoint to Buchanan and Range's sultry girlishness.

Obviously pop group personnel-changes don't matter much in the grand scheme of things. But the best points of this gig - the Gary Numan cut-up Freak Like Me, Push the Button's incessant catchiness, the icy cool of Overload, and Goldfrapp-matching new tracks It Ain't Easy and Obsession - left me hoping that the Sugababes' odd, neon-flecked world of glitter and stilettos might continue to turn. If only to see what happens when Buchanan herself decides to pack it in.

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