The Sugababes – Nottingham Arena, Sunday April 1
With sixteen Top 20 hits under their belts over the past seven years, including five Number Ones, The Sugababes can lay claim to being Britain’s most successful girl group since the Spice Girls. To mark this, their first arena tour has been billed as a Greatest Hits show, and thus a celebration of their achievements to date.
After a long wait, and just as the audience’s patience was wearing thin, the girls finally took to the stage at 9.20, and proceeded to rattle off nineteen numbers in just over an hour and twenty minutes – a bare minimum of performance time for a show of this scale. Backed by a simple four piece band, and surrounded by a barrage of wonderfully stylish computer-generated light patterns, they quickly proved themselves as confident, powerful live singers.
That said, there was little of interest in the vocal arrangements, which stuck fairly rigidly to the melodies, leaving little scope for creative flair. Although the three voices meshed together well, the three personalities behind the voices seemed oddly detached throughout. For a girl group to succeed on stage, there needs to be some sense of a team spirit – that this is a gang of best friends, who stick together and support each other. Bananarama and The Spice Girls had it; Girls Aloud have it in spades; but The Sugababes seemed all but strangers to each other, occupying their own separate spaces, and barely acknowledging each others’ presence.
As the sole remaining original member, Keisha seemed very much the leader of the group, with the strongest vocal presence. Balancing her aloof attitude, Heidi was all smiles throughout, while “new girl” Amelle stayed mostly in the background, never stealing the limelight, knowing her place.
Only during a stripped-down Ugly did anything resembling true passion bubble to the surface. The rest was competent, professional, but disappointingly sterile.