Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

Simon Price on Girls Aloud: It's been emotional, says Cheryl. Forget that – it's been fab

4.00

What's not to love about the comeback of these five glam girls with their unrivalled fusillade of songs?

So, Cheryl's solo career had all the charm of a bailiff with BO. So, the group's members may or may not loathe each other, if you choose to believe the chip-wrapper press. It's still Girls Aloud playing Girls Aloud songs.

Not that you'd know that from the build-up. The homecoming of Cheryl Cole is the biggest story on local TV news, and the comeback concert by the greatest British pop group of the 21st century an incidental detail. Inside the arena, even the boyfriend is mobbed on the way to his seat.

Everyone here looks amazing, by the way, on the terms of their own Geordie Glam aesthetic. It's below freezing outside, and an army of women has clattered down Redheugh Bridge Road and up the stone steps in microskirts, spray tan and massive hair. That "Let's go, Eskimo" lyric suddenly makes sense.

They do love to honour one of their own tribe. From the moment the five metallic-corseted Bratz dolls descend from the ceiling atop their own logo, the crowd's cacophony trebles every time South Shields escapee Cheryl does anything, and quadruples if she mentions Newcastle into the bargain. If Alan Shearer himself tottered onstage in a sequined basque, the screams wouldn't be any louder.

Twiggy Stardust may have become the Special One since Girls Aloud last breathed, but her bandmates are far from mere Spiders. There's the chaotic and entertainingly brassy Sarah Harding, who gives the impression that this reunion has detained her from her true calling as a pole dancer at Bada Bing. There's Kimberley Walsh and her glowing high-street-honey loveliness, Nadine Coyle and her hilariously self-aware supermodel pout, and – my favourite – the impassive, indifferent Nicola Roberts, who looks as if she doesn't need all this, and didn't particularly want it in the first place. If Cheryl gets too full of herself, the other four ought to call her bluff, do a Take That and carry on regardless. They'd be fine.

Every arena-pop cliché is ticked off tonight: catwalk excursions and a "surprise" mini-stage section, pyros and confetti, high-backed chairs and feathery headdresses, fit black guys with six-packs, and the obligatory smartphone-waving ballad. There are opening-night hitches: the camera pointing at the wrong singer, a microphone malfunction, a key change that doesn't quite come off, and Harding going Awol and nearly missing the overhead cable ride.

It doesn't matter, because it's all about the songs: an unrivalled fusillade including the Tarantino-pop of "Sound of the Underground", the sublime Sixties-redux of "The Promise", the turbo-charged "The Show", the incongruous subtlety of "Can't Speak French", the Frankie-referencing "Love Machine" and Bowie-borrowing "Biology", and the immaculate "Call the Shots" (oh my goodness, "Call the Shots"...). Harding's in tears by "I'll Stand By You", her false lashes coming loose. And, before long, they're all at it. It's been emotional, Cheryl tells us. But never mind that. It's been Girls Aloud singing Girls Aloud songs. What's not to love?

Wednesday night, and several million ITV viewers – and a few thousand inside the O2 – witness the terrible, decisive victory of the New Boring. But everyone in the London music industry who isn't at the Brit Awards is at the Borderline, or so it seems: the moment you reach the foot of the stairs you have to fight through a sea of satchels.

The source of the buzz is a west London band called Night Engine (****). Fronted by an elegant sir in a Terylene shirt, with slicked-back strawberry blond hair and named only as Phil, and with a show-stealing Eno-esque synth-nerd called Dom, Night Engine have come from nowhere. With just a wedding band here and a Zappa covers band there in their rear-view mirrors, their emergence was so stealthy and so sudden that they missed all the January polls. The last time I remember a band arriving as fully formed and confident as this was Franz Ferdinand, a decade ago.

They describe their sound only as "the music of the city", and you can certainly imagine it as the theme music for speeding along on the trans-Europe express, gazing at great cities through the glass. For me, it's Young Americans Bowie meets Gang of Four meets the Associates meets pre-shark-jump Simple Minds meets end-period LCD Soundsystem. And their ease with song dynamics – ascending verses, swooping middle eights, soaring choruses and fiendish hooks – is uncanny.

"What?" says Phil between songs, temporarily thrown. "Someone just said they love us?" Get used to it, mate.

Critic's Choice

The Darkness, those shameless showmen of hard rock, launch their UK tour at Sheffield City Hall (Fri) and Manchester Apollo (Sat). Meanwhile, chart-conquering South London girl trio Stooshe play a one-off show at Birmingham Institute (Tue).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests