Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Show 

It was good. So good. So so good. So so so so so so good. So good, in fact, that there aren't enough 'so's in the world, nor an italic font slanty enough to emphasise just how good The Nicola and Friends Show, otherwise known as the Girls Aloud live experience actually was. Mere words are unlikely to do the spectacle anywhere near the justice it deserves, but our inability to express ourselves adequately using the English language has never stopped us in the past, so let's see what we can come up with.

While last year's show was a night of moments, 2006 gave us a night of sections, and the first of these was The Slightly Ropey Support Band Section. While we realise that the odds of them discovering a band as good as Kute two years running were somewhat slim, they could at least have managed to find one as good as Cookie. First up were Nylon, who were Icelandic, which gave them the twin advantages of both being very pretty and having lovely accents. Unfortunately they were also as dull as an iceberg and only really got going when they closed with a cover of Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams, mainly because it was identical to the original, so for all we know they might have simply played the warm up CD too early and the girls, slightly confused, simply began happily singing along.

Following Nylon were Frank, from TV's Totally Frank and not TV's Eastenders. Despite having a setlist mainly made up of Mania off cuts, they were a bit rubbish too, though we did like the fact that the drummer girl insisted on pretending to play her drums, despite the fact whatever she was hitting clearly bore no relation whatsoever to the sound coming out of the speakers. Having said that, it was a pink sparkly drumkit so, y'know, swings and roundabouts and all that.

With that out the way, it was time for The Big, Exciting, Anticipation Building Intro Section. Except it seems that there was a bit of miscommunication going on somewhere as rather than a big, exciting, anticipation building intro section, we got some awful nonsense about "Professor Mad" creating the girls in some sort of laboratory. We were embarrassed for them and we were only watching it. As he was working on his scientific endeavor - which mainly seemed to involve tapping away at a laptop, looking up at the audience and gurning occasionally - profiles of the girls flashed up on the screen behind him. We were a bit disappointed with Nicola's as a) Her favourite thing to say was not "Botherd" and b) When she appeared on screen the girl behind us turned to her friend and said "Oh, I don't like that one". Grr, etc. Fortunately that was swiftly forgotten about as, rising up from under the stage like five beautiful, yet deadly, sirens were Girls Aloud themselves. Woo! Yeah! Clap madly! Etc!

As we began the Blimey! Look at Those Hits! Section, Nicola was, naturally, centre stage and did seem to remain there for the bulk of the show. And quite right too. The girls were dressed in black, white and red outfits, with a lot of horizontal stripes on show, presumably because if vertical stripes are said to be slimming, horizontal ones make you look as if you've had at least one meal in the last five days. Nadine. Nadine also managed to do what she's been threatening to do ever since the band started and went on stage without bothering to put on her skirt. We should also point out that, while Nicola never looks any less than lovely throughout the entire show, both her and Kimberly really need to leave the EZ Perm 5000 well alone. There is such a thing as too curly, you know.

But while we could happily have spent the evening drinking in their beauty, the girls had a more active evening in hand and without any further ado - or, indeed, any ado whatsoever - they quickly launched into Biology, barely pausing for breath before giving us No Good Advice, Waiting and Love Machine. Yup, that's right, while many lesser bands would save a quartet of songs that good for the encore, Girls Aloud are confident enough to open with them, knowing that there's still all manner of aceness to come. The performances were, of course, nothing less than brilliant, with No Good Advice including both the "shit might show" line and a sequence involving dancing, glow in the dark lab coats, though no tambourines :(,Waiting being a sass filled spectacular and Love Machine dropping in a slightly awkward nod to Amerie's One Thing before the final chorus. Biology itself is, of course, one of the single greatest moments pop music has ever seen, so perhaps there was a slight fear that they had peaked too early by opening with it. These fears were unfounded, however, as we moved into the Nicola in Tiny Hawaiian Print Hotpants Section

As the girls went off to get changed we treated to a sequence involving the boy dancers breakdancing to the Dandy Warhols' Bohemian Like You which, pointless as it was - and it was - wasn't anywhere near as bad as the Professor Mad video segments we had to endure for the later costume changes, but it wasn't long before the girls were back on stage, this time dressed in a California Girls style set up, all crop tops and shorts and, yes, those tiny Hawaiian print hotpants. Obviously this is quite a summery set of outfits, so it was only natural that they opened this section with Long Hot Summer, a song which we've grown to like much more than our original somewhat dismissive appraisal of it. It is still a bit GA by numbers, but when the numbers are that good, they can be forgiven. Next up was Whole Lotta History - the ballads were dotted all over the shop this time around, allowing no-one a chance to sneak to the bar for a quick one - and anyone who may have thought that the girls were having an easy time of it up on the stage would swiftly have been set to rights when a close up of a very sweaty Kimberly appeared on the screen. Ballads are all well and good - well, they're not really, but work with us here - but we prefer the more sultry sound of Watch Me Go, which is fair enough really as that was up next, along with it's slightly literal dance routine which involved the girls both holding up the appropriate number of fingers for the "Quarter past 1, 2, etc" bits and, quite fantastically, miming a trombone when that particular instrument got mentioned as well.

Now, covers. Despite our best efforts to avoid knowing what was going to be in the show, we were aware that they were going to be doing Kaiser Chiefs' I Predict a Riot. We weren't overly looking forward to this, but reasoned that had anyone told us they were going to be covering Teenage Dirtbag on the last tour, we'd have reasoned it would have been awful but look how fantastic that turned out to be, so we decided to give it the benefit of the doubt, and thankfully we did as, while it didn't reach such great heights as that particular cover did, they did a damned good version, with a lovely piece of shouting by Nicola for the "Not very sensible, either" line. And while they predict a riot, we predict another costume change, so with a tear in our eye we bid farewell to those tiny, hawaiian print hotpants and wait with bated breath to see what they'll come up with next.

"Erotic ballet school" seems to be the costume theme as we enter the F-ing Films Section, with tu-tus, basques and stockings all in evidence. Alas, not in evidence were the mic stands for Sound of the Underground, with the girls performing it using chairs instead, ala The Show, we also got our second ballad of the evening with See The Day, which does lose a certain level of emotional pull when it's performed by five girls dressed like Darcey Bussel on the game. The look worked a lot better once they moved into the musical medley section, where the themes from Fame, Footloose and Flashdance - presumably had they thought of any other dance related films beginning with 'F' they'd have been included as well - were performed. Perhaps unsurprisingly Nadine took lead vocals on Fame and seemed to take great delight in telling us that she'd make us forget the rest. Nic did Flashdance and was ace, obviously.

A slightly more staid set of outfits were chosen for the Racy lacey! Racy Lacey! Section though given that this is Girls Aloud we're talking about here, these terms are all relative and what is staid for them is still offering somewhat less that full coverage for your average girl on the street, even if it was during this section that Nadine, expressing delight and amazement that we'd all traveled so far to come to the gig - we'd only traveled 10 minutes from our mate's flat but we didn't feel the need to point that out to her - described the group as just 5 average girls who got lucky. We're not convinced, to be honest. Sarah, maybe, but the rest of them? Nah! But anyway, if the show so far had been an experience akin to wiring up all your pleasure sensors to the national grid, then this section involved them turning the power up to full as your body writhes and burns in a blast of pure enjoyment. Bang! The Show! Bang! Intro! Bang! Models! Bang! Racy Lacey! Whimper! I'll Stand By You! Bang! Biology reprise. If ever there was a physical manifestation of the phrase "All guns blazing" this was it. They even took the trouble to finish off Racy Lacey so that it now ends, rather than stops. Of course, after such a high octane performance, the girls need to take a bit longer to recover, so they say their farewells, convincing absolutely no-one, and we begin cheering, applauding, and generally taking the roof off of the building in a show of overexcited seal like appreciation as we await the start of the Encore Section.

And then, arriving from the back of the stage, dressed in robes and harmonising (or more likely miming) the words "Poor boy Peter didn't know how...", they're back! And they're doing Wild Horses. Woo-woo indeed! Realising that unflattering robes are unlikely to garner many column inches in the tabloids, these are quickly thrown off to reveal that the girls are dressed like a sexy female version of the Village People. A bit like Girls@Play really, only sexy. And female. Nic was dressed as a sailor girl, which was fair enough really, as her hair did have the look of someone who'd recently been dunked in seawater about it. Wild Horses was followed by Wake Me Up, though alas the slightly higher production values for the arena tour didn't extend to them riding around the stage on motorcycles as we'd hoped, nor did it extend to them flying around the arena on wires at any point during the gig, though there were plenty of fireworks and other similarly exciting things. Though we can't help but feel that the money spent on hiring whoever played Professor Mad could have been spent a bit more wisely, buying Nadine a meal, for example, or taking Nicola and Kimberly to a proper hairdressers, perhaps.

With Wild Horses out the way, there was only one song left they could close with and, while a brief frission of fear shot down our back at the thought they might genuinely consider Life Got Cold to be a good way to end the set, they knew as well as we did that it had to be Jump, and jump we did, albeit in a slightly awkward and constrained fashion. Silver confetti rained down on us as the show came to a glorious conclusion. We've never smiled, danced, clapped, cheered and generally enjoyed ourselves more at a gig, and are unlikely to do so again until they, fingers crossed, tour again next year. See you down the front for what will, once again, and we say this without any hyberbole or over-exaggeration whatsoever, undoubtedly be the single greatest live experience known to man.