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

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The Independent Culture



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.