Sugababes, Royal Albert Hall, London
Thursday 27 March 2008
Any sense of "duty" in modern Britain could be summarised as follows: paying your taxes; making contact with your relatives over Easter; and going with a loved one to watch the Sugababes. Two thirds of the mainly adult audience at this Royal Albert Hall concert from the trio's Change tour wanted to be there. The rest danced reluctantly until they had had one too many lagers; after that they could have been anywhere.
But let's look at the facts: the Sugas have become one of the country's biggest-selling female pop outfits. Change, their fifth studio album, has already notched up half a million sales, and their latest single, "Denial", is on its way towards the top 10. Surely this many people can't be wrong? Indeed, when the girls screamed at the audience: "Do you want to get freaky?", plenty of people knew they were referring to one of their songs, and yelled back: "Go on!"
And so this well-oiled machine set about the near-note-perfect reproduction of their album. It began with the three babes – the latest line-up is Keisha, Heidi and Amelle – emerging from beneath a magician's shroud in a tricolour of dresses, swiftly launching into a rendition of "Hole in the Head". Against a backdrop that flashed up various Sugababe-related images came the costume changes. First it was big, Hispanic ruffled skirts, which were whisked off to reveal slimmer numbers for "Round Round". Then, mirrored dresses featured for "In the Middle".
But the whole thing was slightly panto; an underestimation of the average age of those who would be attending (London, be ashamed). By anyone's standards for a good pop spectacle – in a world expectant of Kylie-tight routines – their repertoire is timid. The Sugababes have three dance moves: hip-waggling, Russian-army-style slow walking, and the delicate raising of one arm. Most of the time they were shadowed by three dancers, but they rarely worked up a sweat, either. Girls, put your backs into it.
So it's no surprise that musically they didn't stretch themselves. Vocally, the two highlights were a multi-layered, Sugababed version of En Vogue's "Don't Let Go" and a semi-bombastic finale that included their Cathy-Dennis-penned single "About You Now". But on the whole they may as well have been miming.
The conclusion, of fireworks and fire show, was good enough to jolt the kids that were there into some excitable jiggling, and the couples into some out-of-time clapping. But it makes you wonder why the whole thing couldn't have had this much energy.
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