Melanie C, Scala, London (3/5)
Monday 12 December 2011
Four years after she got back together with the Spice Girls, Melanie Chisholm is stalking much smaller venues.
If the former Sporty Spice is frustrated her solo career has seen diminishing returns, she hides it well. Mel C strides from one corner of the stage to another, as if back at the O2 with that all-conquering quintet, rather than at a King’s Cross club.
At least Chisholm can lay claim to the most sustained post-Spice Girl career. After a couple of big-selling albums early on, she has been self-funded, ironically for someone previously nicknamed Indie Spice when she expressed an interest in Britpop. Her last album came out in 2007, preceding an eventful period that included the reunion, starting a family and garnering respectable notices in long-running musical Blood Brothers. Now she has returned with fifth album The Sea, its mild-mannered pop-rock yet to bother mainstream tastes.
Oddly, Chisholm opens with ‘Rock Me’, a trance anthem abetted by chugging guitars that does not even appear on her fifth album in the UK. A minor hit in Germany, this performer clearly enjoys better success on the continent than David Cameron. As a Portuguese flag is waved near the front, she remarks, “I see there’s another large foreign crowd in tonight.” ‘Weak’, meanwhile, is a forceful ballad that reminds us Sporty always had the best voice in her old group, though the rest of the new material wilts in comparison.
‘One By One’ starts off personably autobiographical, but ends up simpering and cloying, while elsewhere writing-by-committee bogs the singer down with clunking metaphors –trying to burn bridges with dynamite and gasoline or drowning after falling off ice. What saves this portion of the set is her populist touch. Delivering torch songs and upbeat rock with equal commitment, you can understand why she was nominated for an Olivier theatrical award. Chisholm is engaging if not massively lucid between numbers and gamely straps on an acoustic guitar to quietly strum through ‘Burn.’
There are also some fine oldies to keep the set ticking over – the celebratory hi-NRG tune ‘I Turn To You,’ the clipped hip-hop/soul of ‘Never Be The Same Again’ and the sweet ‘Northern Star’. All that, and a guest appearance from showbiz chum Brian May, who provides a genuinely electrifying solo for a romp through Queen’s ‘One Vision’. Sounding here more karaoke than Killer Queen, Chisholm has still shown plenty of girl power.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 3 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 4 The most powerful passports in the world
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Oldest footage of London landmarks released
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove