Girls Aloud, Calvin Harris, The Wanted and Pink, Jingle Bell Ball, O2 Arena, London


Girls Aloud proceed like pedigree poodles in circles around the stage

The Barbie-shaped creatures who make up recently reunited girl band Girls Aloud are an insipid warm-up act at the Jingle Bell Ball, Capital FM’s BlackBerry-sponsored annual Christmas concert.

Our hosts Lisa Snowden and Dave Berry remind us it is sponsored by BlackBerry between sets, by getting us to cheer for BlackBerry, which is almost as bad as applauding at the cinema, except it’s worse.

Dressed in super-high heels that seem to inhibit their movement and glittery clothes that look like they inhibit breathing, only a tottering trot is possible for Girls Aloud, as they proceed, like pedigree poodles, in circles around the stage.

With dancing out of the question, they are forced to rely on on sex appeal (good) and vocal talent (poor) to entertain the audience. They offer up a lacklustre rendition of hit "Something Kinda Ooooh",  a fun but unenergetic version of “The Promise” and their new single, “Beautiful 'Cause You Love Me”, which features the implausible chorus, “You don’t love me cause I’m beautiful, Oh no, I’m beautiful cause you love me.”

Nicola Roberts has a few powerful solo moments, and there’s a sweet smile between Cheryl Cole and Kimberley Walsh when they accidentally totter in the same direction, but mostly the women seem frightened to show even a glimmer of personality. The only spark of dynamism comes from the moves of the backing dancers (buff men in tuxes) during “Something New”. Walsh says, "This is our first proper show together in about three and a half years.” Is she trying to explain why they seem so rusty?

Calvin Harris turns the arena into a temporary club, except everyone is dancing in lines and only facing one way. Aside from that, it’s good, foot-stomping stuff, with an eruption of giant balloons to keep the kids in the crowd happy. He does “Drinking From The Bottle” with Tinie Tempah and brings Example on for their collaboration, “We'll Be Coming Back”.

Superfluous crotch-grabbing aside, Example’s manner, somewhere in between a teacher and a master DJ, builds up the energy of the the crowd. Jumping up and down, he orders, “Everybody in the arena, take hold of the person next to you,” and they do, while Example grins and stomps around to the techno beat.

The Wanted, whose management is owned by the same company that owns Capital FM, make an appearance, thanking Capital “for playing our records”. The boys, standing behind empty window frames, sing “Heart Vacancy” with the memorable, yet inane line “If loneliness would move out, I'd fill the vacancy, in your heart, in your heart, in your heart” which is met with wild, hysterical screams.

The highlight of the night is Pink, who enters through the side door, flanked by three body guards, and insists this is the “PG 13 version”, then mere seconds later screams “bitch” in the chorus to mega-hit  “Just Like a Pill”, as she stomps her knee-high black boots (stiletto-heeled, but she can still jump, and skip, around in them). Then in the next chorus she remembers to omit the swear-word, but replaces it with a silent middle finger.

The apex of her set, and the highlight of the night, sees her launch off the stage and with the aid of some careful harnessing, fly across the arena, spinning upside-down and coming within inches of the crowd. One starstruck fan tweeted; “OMG, me and Pink made eye-contact!”

This is her baby’s “first real show” she tells us, taking breaks between songs to talk to her daughter. ”Are you good? I love you!” she coos, making the sign of the horns with her hand. “You know this sign doesn’t mean evil, it means “I love you”.” she explains. She’s quirky, but seems comfortable with herself. Girls Aloud could learn a lot from her. 

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