Scala, London

Simon Price on Mutya Keisha Siobhan: A proper Suga rush from the original babes

4.00

Freak Like Me! Girl-groupers are back together and better than ever

Render unto Keisha the things that are Keisha's. And unto Mutya. And Siobhan. The original Sugababes are back to reclaim, with a quiet vengeance, everything that is rightfully theirs. Well, bar the name.

As we speak, the legal entity called Sugababes may or may not still exist. Jade Ewen, in a recent interview, seemed confused on the matter, but conceded that they've probably split. It's for the best. Oh, she, Heidi Range and Amelle Berrabah could doubtless spin out a comfortable living miming the hits on mid-afternoon slots at radio roadshows. But in their mercenary hearts, they know the game's up. Ever since the last original member was edged out, they've been their own farcical tribute act, who by rights should be rebranded the Saccharinbabes, the Sucralosebabes, or the Aspartamebabes. Eurovision also-ran Ewen is currently touting herself as a solo act, Atomic Kitten refugee Range is starring in the Happy Days musical and appearing on television cookery shows, and TOTP competition-winner Berrabah is ... frankly, who knows or cares? Meanwhile, the three women allowed to call themselves anything but Sugababes are busy being proper pop stars.

To recap, since their launch in 2000, Sugababes – originally the trio of Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy, assembled by All Saints manager Ron Tom – gradually enacted Theseus's Paradox. The question is: if you replace every part of an item, is it the same item? Comparing the shambles of Sugababes with the majesty of Mutya Keisha Siobhan, the answer is plain.

Siobhan, the willowy redhead, was first to jump ship in 2001, citing "bullying" by Keisha, and the first to release a solo record. In a recent interview, she remembered "major divide-and-conquer tactics going on," adding, "We were thrown to the wolves."

Next to quit was Mutya in 2005, her exit as sudden as her walk-out from the Big Brother house. Buena was always my favourite, as much for her hilariously hostile countenance as her stunning Filipina features, and for releasing the finest post-Babes single (in Groove Armada's romping "Song 4 Mutya"). Something about her insolent blankness, her tattoo addiction and double-figure body piercings adds up to the impression of a badass with whom you do not mess.

When someone told me she's "lovely" in real life, I had to shut them up. If Mutya Buena is not a monumental bitch, I don't wanna hear it.

Mutya's bestie Keisha, she of the anatine pout, held on longest. But in 2009 she, too, was manoeuvred through the revolving door.

Pleasingly, an internet "imagine if ..." gag, often involving terms like Continuity Sugababes or Real Sugababes, became reality a year ago when it was announced that MKS had signed a £1m deal with Polydor, and had been working with writers including Dev Hynes, Shaznay Lewis, Emeli Sandé and Richard X.

First single "Flatline", to the relief of all true believers, turned out to be terrific. Their first public gig does likewise. Stepping out on to a Scala stage decorated with eight silver photographers' umbrellas, tall as palms, they perch on stools, the intro to "Overload" rumbles out, and a roar of exultation sucks what little oxygen remains from the room.

"Overload", Sugababes' debut single, was released when they were aged 15 and 16, and exuded a knowingness beyond their years, a precocious ennui. They weren't only a phenomenal hit machine, but, in a true, non-punk sense, credible.

It's followed by the gorgeous "Run For Cover", which is joined by other 'Babes hits, including some which Siobhan didn't sing on first time around. As the member who's been away the longest, the welcome for her is especially intense: when she takes her solo lines in "Stronger", the whole place goes nuts.

The excitement peaks with "Freak Like Me", whose euphoric "It's all good for mee-ee!", while Tubeway Army's Korgs go into overdrive, is one of the great orgasmic climaxes of modern pop and testament to the genius of Richard X.

Six MKS songs are given a premiere: "I'm Alright", "Love Me Hard", "Boys", "Today", "No Regrets" and "Metal Heart"sound effortlessly classy, with urgent, dramatic chord changes and sometimes almost Abba-esque harmonies. They encore with "Lay Down In Swimming Pools", and a version of "Flatline" with a couple of verses of "Push The Button". Whatever you choose to call them, they're back. Sweet.

Critic's Choice

Former Hitsville USA secretary-turned-soul diva Martha Reeves brings The Vandellas' immortal Motown smashes to the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh (Tues and Wed), and The Gorilla, Manchester (Sat). Meanwhile, suave Eighties-inspired dance-rockers Night Engine begin a residency of three successive Wednesday nights at the St Moritz, London.

 

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there