Their astute Girl Power tagline promoted gender equality and confidence to a generation of tweenagers in the 90s, and now two decades on the Spice Girls are matching the boy/men bands in the comeback stakes with their Spice World stadium extravaganza.
The Spice Girls, BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh ****
There was an inclusive welcome from the start but also an inherent celebration of diversity as Mel C, Mel B, Emma and Geri revisited their pop personas in bold style, taking the stage as an electric ninja Sporty, leopard print Scary, candy-coloured Baby and regal Princess Ginger, each with their own house dancers kitted out as their tribe, then proceeded to milk that smart branding for the next two hours.
The sound problems reported at previous shows were not as prevalent and the standard booming stadium acoustics failed to dampen the impact of the Latin fiesta that is Spice Up Your Life. Fortunately they have one of the great galvanising pop catalogues of the times to drive the performance forward, not least the booty-shaking Who Do You Think You Are which climaxed with a rainbow confetti shower.
The colours of the world had turned out, and flags were collected from the crowd, with Mel C needing some help in identifying Trinidad & Tobago’s standard. The group had also come armed with Scottish reference points – Geri, swathed in a tartan blanket, compared herself to Supergran, Emma supped our other national drink and their guitarist sparked a singalong to The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)– but they seemed unprepared for the volume and enthusiasm of the crowd. As Emma eloquently put it: “Wowsers”.
They copped a bit of Beyonce’s attitude and martial percussive volleys as they chanted their training mantra “strength and courage in a wonder bra”. But while the performance was slick, it was not regimented. Their girl gang interactions had a ring of impish spontaneity, Mel C broke down in tears over Let Love Lead The Wayand Geri was not quite with the choreographic programme during their girls’ night out disco interlude.
The songs have mostly stood the test of time (drawing a veil over their Andrews Sisters pastiche The Lady is a Vamp). The sultry Holler referenced the urban production values of its day, with gamelan embellishment and floaty ballad Viva Forever was tastefully garnished with Spanish guitar. But the big hitters remained the sublime Say You’ll Be There, with the audience as the fifth band member, the finger-popping bubblegum of Stop and their boisterous calling card Wannabe with the quartet rolling back the years in blinged-up versions of their original outfits.