Music: Because growing up is so very hard to do

Live: All Saints Shepherd's Bush Empire London
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The Independent Culture
IN SPICEWORLD, you get 20ft video montages, giant spaceships, and glittering platform shoes. In Stepsworld, you are treated to balloons, Blue Peter outfits and the complete works of Walt Disney in five minutes. Saintworld, however, is a distinctly more grounded affair, where the dance routines are understated and combat trousers and trainers reign supreme. Even with the requisite dancing boys and a faux-industrial backdrop, the All Saints' set at the Shepherd's Bush Empire was seemingly levelled at a more mature set of punters.

It has long been reported that Mel, Nicole, Shaz and Natalie are frustrated at having attracted a following whose average age barely exceeds their number of hits. Their world-weary lyrics and sleazy swingbeat may reveal more adult preoccupations than their teen-pop peers, but it is precisely these coming-of-age musings that have captured the imagination of young girls. Some less-than-saintly affairs with heart-throbs Jamie Theakston, Robbie Williams and Damon Albarn have simply served to compound the pre- teen feeding frenzy.

It was therefore a disturbing sight to see girls in their early teens dancing in formation and doing the kind of lascivious moves that you normally see late at night on Channel 5. The adults in the crowd seemed largely made up of parents looking aghast at their hormone-addled offspring.

As four dancers were lowered on to the stage like puppets and the Saints emerged dressed in Michael Jackson-style gangster suits, we steeled ourselves for the stadium-style extravaganza that usually befits all-girl acts. That, as it transpired, was the climax of the show. The Saints wanted to concentrate on the music.

This was sometimes difficult as their mercurial man-at-the-decks yelled things like "let me hear you say eh-oh", drowning out the girls in the process. The troupe of dancers also provided an unnecessary diversion as they took to vying with one another with their breakdancing skills.

Musically, the Saints could hardly be faulted. As they steamed through "I Know Where It's At", "Under The Bridge" and "Beg", their sound was as polished as their recorded material. In between songs, the girls took it in turns to assert their personalities by introducing themselves and their favourite songs. Indeed, such a long time was spent in between songs doing very little that the sparseness of their material became increasingly apparent. This time-wasting eventually extended to their music. A medley of their favourite Seventies tracks ended up as a lengthy version of The Jackson's "Can You Feel It?" while, after performing the original version of "Never Ever", they resorted to performing a remix of it. You couldn't help but feel it was time to bring on the spaceships.

Fiona Sturges

All Saints' summer tour begins in Dublin, 31 May and 1 June, then Aberdeen, 4 June, finishing in London on 23 June, Shepherd's Bush Empire, and 24, 25 June, Wembley Arena

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