Detractors be damned, this talent show quintet have much to celebrate after ten years at the top
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that hoary old cliché certainly rings true when it comes to Girls Aloud, if the ticket sales for their current Ten Tour are anything to go by.
First formed on reality TV show Pop Stars: The Rivals in 2002, up until their hiatus in 2009 the Girls’ held a firm grasp on the UK pop mainstream, thanks to a schizophrenic blend of synthed-up, raunch ‘n’ roll beats, killer hooks and lyrics that often made no sense whatsoever.
Holding the record for the most consecutive top ten single entries in the UK charts by a female group, the band rewrote the rule book – they were talent show winners who somehow managed to achieve instant street cred, and set a standard for a new breed of feisty female pop group.
Along the way they shifted millions of units, saw their songs covered by indie darlings Arctic Monkeys, were adopted by the NME, collaborated with Franz Ferdinand and even toured with Coldplay and Jay Z. In short, Girls Aloud achieved success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
After parting ways for a few years to pursue individual goals, tonight's sold out Odyssey Arena show sees the quintet reunite to celebrate ten years at the top. Welcome back Cheryl Cole, Nadine Coyle, Kimberly Walsh, Nicola Roberts and Sarah Harding.
Aptly opening with their first single, ‘Sound Of The Underground,’ the five-piece descend from the Odyssey rafters on top of a huge sign bearing their band’s moniker, while live musicians bash out that famous Dick Dale-esque surf guitar riff and shuffling, dance rhythms.
Harding looks terrified at being suspended 20 feet above the raucous audience, and her vocals suffer accordingly, but for the most part it’s a strong start to the show.
Second single ‘No Good Advice’ is up next. The brazen borrowing of the bass-line from the Knack’s ‘My Sharona’, coupled with a chorus that sounds like a school-ground taunt, is pure Girls Aloud. This is pop music with attitude, though ballad ‘Life Got Cold’ hasn’t aged quite so well.
Still, there are plenty of killer songs ahead and ‘The Show', which squeezes no less than four hooks into one three-minute tune, is rapturously received by the faithful tonight.
It would be remiss not to highlight the undeniable talent of Girls Aloud’s songwriting and production team, Xenomania. This evening’s gig is as much about their achievements as it is the quintet’s. In their pomp, Xenomania were near peerless in the pop world thanks to their mad scientist-like approach to crafting a tune, and there’s no better example of this than ‘Biology'.
Hailed by The Guardian as 'the best pop single of the last decade', this track stitches together Motown sounds, disco and dance, creating something entirely new. It’s an undeniable highlight of the evening.
As expected, another of Derry~Londonderry's musical exports, Nadine Coyle, seems happy to be back on home soil after spending the majority of the past few years in LA. While her 'What’s the craic? I’m a wee bit nervous' schtick is a little cringe-worthy (and that accent is as thick as ever), the crowd lap up the local girl made good’s onstage patter.
Vocally, there are a few wobbles, and you can tell that the group are a tad out of practice when it comes to performing on arena stages. But there is an overwhelming feel good factor about the gig, with the Belfast audience willing Coyle and co on to succeed.
While recent single ‘Beautiful ‘Cause You Love Me’ is a little too schmaltzy and saccharine for these ears, their final number ‘The Promise’ ends the night in style. The Brit Award-winning number still sounds like an absolute anthem. Genre Nazis and the too cool for school set be damned.