sat 20/07/2024

Girls Aloud, OVO Hydro, Glasgow review - pop queens return with poignant hit parade | reviews, news & interviews

Girls Aloud, OVO Hydro, Glasgow review - pop queens return with poignant hit parade

Girls Aloud, OVO Hydro, Glasgow review - pop queens return with poignant hit parade

The girl group's reunion showed their songs remain gloriously euphoric

Girls Aloud possessed a cheerful, giddy nature onstage

There was a point in this pop revival jaunt where you could feel members of the crowd wince. Not for the performance, but because Nicola Roberts introduced a song by mentioning it was from “the Chemistry album, which came out 19 years ago”. You could almost feel some in the crowd recoil, as if expecting to crumble to dust at that confirmation of the passing of time.

Reunion gigs can often carry that nostalgic air, and it was more pronounced than most at this show, part of the girl group’s first tour in 11 years. The sad passing of Sarah Harding due to breast cancer, here remembered through big screen videos and recorded vocal contributions, provided a poignancy above and beyond the girls getting the sequins and spandex out again. When the rest of the band departed the stage during the big ballad cover of the Pretenders “I’ll Stand by You”, letting it play out to Harding’s vocal, there were emotional hugs going on across the arena, whether for Harding or their own losses over the years.

Many of the Glasgow crowd embracing looked of an age to have grown up with Girls Aloud, and witnessed their role in rejuvenating British pop first hand. Now they were bringing their kids along, though it was always the adults quickest to their feet and fastest to moving their hips all night long. And thankfully, joyously, there was considerable opportunities to do that. This was still a big pop show after all, and the group’s run of chart bangers thankfully retain a modernity to them.

That gave the evening a dynamism beyond the usual pop show trappings of costume changes, pyro, confetti and backing dancers, all of which were present and correct too. Therefore the band arrived on platforms perched in the air for oddly subdued opener “Untouchable”, paraded about with fans on the whip sharp, finger clicking “Can’t Speak French” and donned Regency era dresses when performing “Sexy! No No No”. Best of all, they appeared on motorcycles above the crowd for “Wake Me Up”, placing them alongside Judas Priest in the admittedly rather niche category of bands who use motorbikes onstage.  

Missing, however, was a live band, unlike previous tours, with a backing tape having to do and that meant the sounded lacked a little energy at times. They missed Harding as a performer too, and the cheeky wink, in-your-face sexual energy she always provided the group with. However the remaining four can still sashay and strut with stylish confidence, as they did on the female empowerment stomp of “Something New”, an early highlight, or the rousing “Something Kinda Ooooh” that closed the main set and which climaxed with them dropping through platforms onstage, as if they had been summoned to the Batcave.

They’re all polished pros, with Roberts displaying both the best vocal and an air of being cool without even trying throughout. However they also manage to convey a cheerful, giddy nature with each routine, and that is true of their best songs too.

There is a simple euphoria wrapped inside the throw everything at the wall creativity of songwriters Xenomania, and those gleeful slices of pop arrived rapidly. “Biology” careered in with a runaway Motown beat, the addictive guitar twang of “Sound of the Underground” lashed out relentlessly and “No Good Advice” still appears to be three bops in one, right through to the inspired spoken word finale. It was a reminder of both how intoxicating good pop music can be, and of the memories it can create.

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