Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Something Kinda Phew 

So! The Girls Aloud gig then. As always this is definitely not the place to turn to for objective, unbiased coverage. Despite leaving it a week to write this, when it comes to GA our critical faculties completely desert us and we can muster up little more than an "OMG Girls Aloud are sooooo ace" style reporting, but hey, we're allowed to get a little bit over enthusiastic every now and again and besides, going to see the Girls live is a bit of a religious experience for us. Although it's safe to say that, outside the pages of the more scandal ridden Sunday tabloids, it's unlikely that you'll see many vicars and priests dressed in the sort of thing that Nicola and friends were wearing on stage. Anyway, here's what happened:-

Many things in life revolve around their entrances. Revolving doors spring immediately to mind, as do bouncers on roundabouts, but it's pop concerts where they truly matter. Well, that and being in a burning building, in which case the entrances and exits have never been so important, but that's not hugely relevant right now. Having employed both the curtain drop and the understage rise in previous years, the Girls take full advantage of the budgetary increase and this time around appear from above the stage suspended in a giant hydraulic cradle like five window cleaners, ready to shake their chamois like there's no tomorrow. At the current rate of spectacle expansion, this means that for their next tour they'll enter the arena by being fired in from a massive cannon at the back of the arena, but for now we'll just have to make do with them standing slightly awkwardly as the cradle slowly inches it's way down to stage level.

Never believing in saving the best til last, the Girls launch straight into Something Kinda Ooooh dressed in a sort of Sexy American Cop Style outfit, complete with GA baseball caps and gynaecologically tight trousers. All except Nicola, who appeared not to have got the same memo as the rest of them and has interpreted the American theme in her own way by wearing a cheerleading skirt designed for a girl at least a foot shorter than herself. Sigh. We, if we perhaps have not made this clear in the past, love Nicola. Once they got off of their cradle - and the only other time you'll see people distancing themselves from a Cradle with more speed is when Atomic Kitten get together and start discussing their back catalogue - the Girls strutted and preened and did generally did everything you could ever want Girls Aloud to do in the space of a three minute pop song, although whether this included 'singing every single note live' is something which is open to debate but equally is something which we think is largely irrelevant. The budget also didn't stretch to having tutu's on stage for the Girls to jump on. This was a Disappointment.

At the end of the song the Girls removed their hats and threw them into the crowd. Except that because the hats are no doubt a bit on the pricey side and also because each Girl is, of course, a girl and so throws like one, they carefully made sure they fell no further than the crash barrier at the front, ready to be collected and worn another day, leading, over time, to a fine dusting of, umm, dust, collecting around the top of their heads like a set of halos. Unpleasant, unhygienic and potentially allergy inflaming halos, admittedly, but halos none the less.

Having kicked off with a song whose video featured them arsing around in cars and treating the highway code with the same sort of reverence you might give to a book written by Piers Morgan or Richard Littlejohn, they then turned their attentions to Wake Me Up, a song whose video featured them treating motorcycles as if they were children's toys, rather than the metallic killing machines they actually are. On the basis of this evidence, we don't think Girls Aloud should be allowed on any motorised vehicle more powerful than a Segway, and even then we'd still feel a bit dubious if we were to see them coming towards us on a push bike. Anyway, they didn't have any bikes to ride for the performance and no-one, to the best of our knowledge died, so we consider the whole affair to be a success

Despite each of the Sugababes being far too busy getting arrested, hating the other members and being smilily oblivious to any sort of dischord respectively, the Girls still felt the need to perform Walk This Way even though it seems unlikely that it's omission from the setlist would have caused mass riots in the auditorium or, indeed, even been noticed. Without another band to rail against, the Girls instead stood on one side of the stage, directing their ire and anger towards the male dancers on the other side. As the dancers do not sing and, for a large part of the time, can barely dance, their response was limited to some awkward "Who us?" style gestures and some vaguely aggressive posturing. The main effect was to make the Girls look like they were hanging around outside the local Deaf and Dumb school, bullying the pupils as they tried to go about their business in the playground. It was not, it's safe to say, a success.

Finally, in this section at least, although it normally does close the tour, leading to some brief concern that the Girls had had enough of this performing lark and fancied making an early night of it, Jump made it's usual appearance and we all did which, in our unthinking mob following of orders, has much in common with how Hitler got in power. Perhaps they're wearing their authoritative, almost fascistic costumes for reasons other than mild titillation. Who knows? But it matters not as, with a blast of fireworks, they're off for their first costume change of the night. With the amount of hairspray present on the stage, however, we're not entirely convinced that the use of fireworks is a good idea. One stray spark and they could all go up.

Section two and the Girls are all rocking the Teeny Tiny Hotpants look. All, that is, except for Kimberley, who in some misguided sense of decorum has wrapped a dancer's skirt around herself, and Nicola who, having already rocked the Teeny Tiny Hotpants look on previous tours, has decided to go on stage in just her knickers. This is probably down to Nadine hiding her shorts in a cruel prank and, like the old PE punishment of old, is being forced to perform in her vest and pants, but it's not something we're going to complain about.

No Good Advice is the opening gambit here, sweariness fully intact, and is swiftly followed by Long Hot Summer, with its airiness fully intact. For no other reason than to provide a distraction while the stage hands prep the cradle with red cushions in preparation for Whole Lotta History, the Girls decide to lead the audience in a Mexican Wave, which is more the sort of thing you'd expect from a desperate compere at a Butlins resort who's beginning to lose the audience, rather than from a 21st century pop concert, but as this was one of the longest conversations they had with the crowd - the rest of the chat being limited to "How are you doing!" and "We love playing in (Insert name of city here) you're always such a great crowd" - we should perhaps be grateful for the attention and lap it up like the celeb-obsessed hordes that we are. Which, to be fair, we did.

Whole Lotta History was performed with, as hinted at above, the Girls lounging in the cradle which was now transformed into, depending on your point of view, a luxury boudoir or a soft furnishings sales pitch. They were raised slightly above the ground and softly swung back and forth as they sang this tender tale of lost love and painful memories. Of course, the fact the Girls were barely wearing enough material to make one complete outfit between them did somewhat detract from the effect they were trying to get at here, and may have led to the casual observer believing that, after the relationship came to an end, the girl was so broken by the heartache that she ended up falling into a career in the high class prostitution market, but we digress.

This year's 'surprise' cover was a Dirty Dancing medley, and while the screens didn't quite start flashing "WE ARE BEING INCREDIBLY LAZY AND UNIMAGINATIVE", they might as well have done. We only watched Dirty Dancing for the first time a couple of weeks ago and while we were very drunk the plot to us seemed to consist mainly of Patrick Swayzee taking pity on a mute girl who spends the entire film looking confused at what everybody says. This may well have been what she called 'acting'. Either way it was the worst film we've ever seen, and bear in mind that we've seen Species 2. As for the medley itself, well, if you've ever seen a Hen night in a karaoke bar then you'll pretty much know what to expect. Although if you have seen a hen night in a karaoke bar it's likely that you've already torn out your eyes and ears and self-performed a lobotomy in a bid to try and remove that painful memory from your mind.

Section three and pinstripes are the name of the game as the Girls rock a Gangster look, kicking off with Sound of the Underground, performed in the old school way with both Mic Stands and Nicola barely getting a word in edgeways. Also performed in an old school way, although in an entirely different sense of the word, is Life Got Cold, which is performed in a ska-stylee, coming across like The Specials woke up one morning and found they'd been turned into a girl band. It was, well, interesting if nothing else and does at least breathe a bit of life into Life Got Cold, a track we've never really warmed to. Arf.

N-N-N-N-N-N-N-Next was Graffiti My Soul, as the Girls, not content with mocking the mute decide to turn their bullying attentions towards those with stutters. But forget their claims that Real Life, the next song on the set list, was a song they really wanted to release as a single, this should have been sent hurtling chartwards instead of their pisspoor charity croon-a-long of I'll Stand By You. Still sounding a million times fresher than most of what makes up the chart, the skintight rhythms and spiky melody walks all over most of what passes for pop, what has passed for pop and even what will pass for pop. And it encourages the spraypainting of a fish, an act we can only condone.

A roulette wheel, giant dollar sign and big red dice are brought onto the stage as we prepare for the next movement in the Girls Aloud symphony. The costume change here is clearly quite a complicated one as the dancers, who have previously just been content with vaguely moving in time to the extended workout that the band perform while the Girls are off stage now appear to be attempting to act out some sort of routine which involves a plot. We have no idea what it was about, nor, frankly, do we care.

Finally, the Girls arrive, all glammed up in sparkly, Vegas style showgirl dresses, appropriate for the stage setting, if not the less than Vegas like weather of Glasgow, as the band begins a swing version of I Think We're Alone Now with Nadine taking, and when does she not, the lions share of the vocal. There's more chance of Pete Doherty giving up The Drugs as there is for Nadine to give up the limelight. We just hope that the stylistic choice doesn't portend a Robbie style swing album, even we would have trouble finding something good to say about that.

Things then move onto Money which seems to leave most of the audience nonplussed, although given that most of the audience seemed to love the Dirty Dancing medley, this leads us to the conclusion that most of the audience had their polarities crossed. From the sublime to the ridiculous as the Girls troop to the top of the stairs and perform I'll Stand By You on a spinning podium. Nicola holds onto Kim's hand as she does so, which is both sweet and indicative of vertigo. And at least it wasn't See The Day, something which we find to be a good point about most songs.

Closing this section and, indeed, the main set it's the old favourite Love Machine, a song which has rapidly become the Girls Aloud song, in the sense that it's the one most closely associated with the band, rather than being the definitive example of their oeuvre, and gets a predictably wild reaction. Half way through Cheryl yells "STOP!", clomps across the stage, sounding, although certainly not looking, like a baby elephant, downs a bottle of champagne before burping heavily and allowing the band to carry on. Surely Cheryl, better than any other member of the band, knows the dangers of binge drinking. Tsk!

And with that, it all comes to an end. Or does it? Of course not! We've all been to gigs, we all know how the encore thing works. Or least you'd think we did, anyway. The people in charge of the screens, however, were less sure, and insisted on putting up big messages encouraging us to scream, shout, make some noise and generally give ourselves laryngitis if we wanted to see some more, despite the fact the Girls would be contractually obliged to perform the full set and would have to return to the stage even if the arena gave them nothing more than a half hearted shrug and some polite applause. Either way, our enthusiasm was eventually deemed to be enough as the curtain was pulled back to reveal the Girls in bed doing The Show and dancing as best you can when you have a heavy duvet restricting your movements. The problems of the high tog rating were soon dealt with, as the Girls threw back the duvets revealing not only that they were all wearing rather ace silk GA bathrobes, but that they were each in bed with a young gentleman. This, we believe, is what the Daily Mail were referring to as youth-corrupting raunchy scenes, despite the fact it was about as raunchy as a Benny Hill show and as corruptive as a Bugs Bunny cartoon where he attempts to seduce Elmer Fudd. It was, however, incredibly ace, as pretty much all performance of The Show are, when you get right down to it.

Finally, and it really is finally this time around, the Girls whip off their robes to reveal they have their Biology-esque dresses on underneath. "What song can we perform dressed like this then?" they ask, and before the crowd even have time to reach a consensus they launch into, well, Biology, the single greatest song released in the last five years. It purrs, it thrills, it still sounds like a million songs rolled into one and it's still as thrilling as covering yourself in tinfoil before sticking a fork in the plug socket.

And then it was over. Just like Mika, it was so over. No more songs, no more dancing, no more teeny tiny hotpants, just the dark of the night and the excited chatter of thousands upon thousands of Girls Aloud fans left. "We'll see you again soon", was the excited cry from the stage as they vanished from view. Let's hope they're right, although given that the quality of our GA Live review has noticeably decreased this time around, perhaps it's for the best if they're wrong. Let's wait and see, shall we?

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