Pop: Bless them! Spice on earth and good will to all men

THE SPICE GIRLS

EARLS COURT

LONDON

MILLIONS OF little girls are gathered in an aircraft hangar wearing tinselly silver antennae and screaming. In the middle is a big glowing stalactite, and green lasers play about through the smoke. It is a scene of wintry apocalypse: perhaps the innocent masses are alien-worshippers, ready to welcome back the extraterrestrials who kick-started life on our planet.

But then, as the amplified orchestra reaches a climax, at the other end of a walkway, among snow-girt fir trees, there is a spurt of flame and four figures rise slowly on a platform, arrested in hieroglyphic postures.

They're not aliens, but goddesses. They're the Spice Girls.

How to praise sufficiently these paragons of womanhood, as they launch into a riotous "Spice Up Your Life"? We must turn to ancient mythology: just as Greek goddesses embodied different aspects of the eternal female for the temple-building devout, so do these four supernatural queens of pop.

Melanie C is Nike, goddess of sporting victory, high-kicking and headbanging; Emma Bunton, vogueing into kittenish little-girl poses, is Hebe, goddess of youth; spangly diva Mel G can be none other than the beauteous Aphrodite; and Victoria Beckham, with her imperious pointing and aura of omniscience, is goddess of wisdom.

Posh's media hounds could be vapourised with a single thunderbolt, but her power is forgiving, benign. Such is the mythical omnipotence of the Spices that they summon at will extraordinary forces: as they balance sweetly on chrome stools for "Mama", a live string section floats out of nowhere into the central platform, while down the walkway the awestruck spectator suddenly notices a gang of white-cassocked, happily swaying gospel singers.

The central stalactite comes to symbolise the Spices' sexual power over all men: strobing in white-hot stimulation or pulsing slowly with a tumescent red glow. After beautifully slinky renditions of "Too Much" and "2 Become 1", there is an electro-jungle interlude as four shaven-headed white men skate about the stage, like escapees from Starlight Express.

They're obviously performing some powerful ritual: the Spices reappear in tight black-and-silver dresses with what looks like a printed circuit- board pattern. Thus do the band straddle the realms of the sexual and the electronic, and prove it with a darkly catchy new song of bleeps and skittering rhythms whose title sounds like "I Want To Make You Harder". The stalactite throbs in approval.

From a pneumatic "Who Do You Think You Are?", by way of fireworks and friendly audience-baiting, the Spice Girls crescendo with a glorious "Goodbye", as snow falls from the heavens and the orchestra swells in joy.

Let their wart-nosed detractors henceforth be struck silent: the Spice Girls can sing, they can dance, and they put on a touchingly entertaining show for the adoring faithful. As an encore, they materialise in even slinkier costumes of blood-red taffeta and white furry stoles to deliver a stonking "Wannabe" and a rousing Christmas medley.

We have been Spiced, and it is a blessing from above.

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