Sugababes review: The new material girls

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Sugababes ***** Playhouse

FLASHING bunny ears, pink sparkly cowboy hats and – rather bizarrely – what appeared to be some sort of riot baton emblazoned with the band's logo (which was later revealed to be a light up wand) . . .

The people brandishing – and in equal amounts avoiding – this merchandise at last nights sell out Playhouse gig? Lots and lots of girls, young women and gay men seemed to make up the majority, which no doubt played a large part in the electric atmosphere that welcomed the Sugababes.

Keisha Buchanan, Heidi Range and Amelle Berrabah are now, with five studio albums and 21 singles (six of them hitting the top spot), officially the most successful all-female act of the 21st century in the UK.

So what is there to say about their Change tour, considering it was virtually faultless, visually stunning and vocally excellent?

Well let's talk costumes, as they took the title of the tour and recent album quite literally, incorporating ten costume changes and a couple of tweaks to some familiar hits.

First appearing on stage via a "magic" trick to the strains of Rihanna's Don't Stop The Music mixed in with their own Hole in the Head, the girls wore the first of a fair few colourful ruffled skirts. Following an extremely clever dance routine with computer generated shadows to Round Round, a quick Bucks Fizz-esque skirt rip was applied for Never Gonna Dance Again which, despite being one of the best numbers on the new album, strangely wasn't a crowd pleaser.

All bets that the Sugababes took themselves too seriously were immediately off the moment they returned to the stage for In The Middle dressed in giant mirrorball skirts. Ridiculously camp, but the resulting effect as shafts of light bounced around the venue was simple yet fantastically effective.

Ugly (by this point in kimonos, try to keep up), which Berrabah made very much her own, got the evenings first crowd sing-along.

The following number, blending Freak Like Me with early album track Virgin Sexy, was accompanied by figure-hugging leopard-print dresses that Lesley Joseph would kill for. It soon became apparent, however, that the pattern worked perfectly against the moving on-screen background, creating the illusion of a music video taking place live on stage.

Another peeling of layers, with the addition of some bling and the girls performed Backdown before staging a staggering rendition of En Vogue's Don't Let Go (Love) in classic black dresses.

But not everything is perfect, and the dressing gowns adorned with leaves and flowers that the Babes donned to perform Change and Mended By You made them look, when they stood too close together, like Fraggle Rock's trash heap.

Red Dress, mashed with Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Two Tribes, was, of course, marked with giant red dresses, like prom night gone insane. But of course that wasn't all, as even these were removed to reveal a silver plastic version when they performed My Love Is Pink.

It was somewhat telling that when returning for their encore of Push The Button in what looked like their normal clothes rather than stage outfits, the girls seemed truly comfortable enough to engage properly with each other and also with the audience (although to give Berrabah her due she hardly seemed to stop waving at fans all night.)

When the audience sang the final line of About You Now perfectly the girls beamed from ear to ear which, matched by everyone that was cheering back at them.