Pop: Live: All done in the best possible taste

Texas Wembley Arena London

I THINK what you tend to feel about Texas, particularly after seeing them play, is that they could be cracking... if they could just add one more element to their act. It's hard to say what that element is, but originality could be in with a chance. After all, you can't fault their playing and Sharleen Spiteri, on Tuesday night's evidence, is not the vapid Spice Girl her publicity shots strain to portray.

Of course, it's that revamped image, which accompanied White on Blonde, that helped take Texas from no-hope alley to the money-spinning stadium- fillers we see before us. In interview, Spiteri likes to say she just woke up one day and "Ting! I was a different person... Even my face had changed." Which is actually quite scary.

Promotion for the new album, The Hush, takes the look further, Sharleen all wet in the surf, dribbling and fingering the zip of her jeans. So it's a surprise when she strides onstage, because she's in her old indie gear - baggy trousers and a boy's short-sleeved shirt. The screens show she's spurned her make-up, too; she looks tired, and bears a shocking resemblance to Emma Thompson. At once, your respect for her rises, though not everyone is happy. The chaps beside me don't know the music well; by the set of their jaw, they came to look at Sharleen, and could do with some money back.

It was more than the makeover that restored Texas's fortunes; there was also the business of chucking the old slide-guitar sound and going wholesale for Massive Attack synths, to which they couple Seventies-style white soul. White On Blonde got the measure of this about right, and "Black- Eyed Boy", performed tonight with thrashing guitars and a hint of threat, is quite exciting. The funky Motown trip has, however, got the better of them lately.

New stuff includes "When We Are Together", a jolly Supremes knock-off and, as more of this nature follows, half-heartedly modernised with a bit o scratching, you wonder if we're just sitting through improvisations on Stax/Motown out-takes. It's all done in the best possible taste, Spiteri leaping about the stage in a whirl of energy and sweat; it's just unsatisfying, too much frippery around a hollow core. The ballads - a Prince-inflected "Tell Me the Answer", "Day After Day" - are headachingly dull, and when Spiteri does her solo unplugged effort for the pedestrian "Put Your Arms Around Me", backed by a Flake-ad film of herself wandering through a field, it's a bit embarrassing.

A couple of grungy belters are dashed off, though they hint of far better things, then Spiteri announces "Summer Son" as if it's her proudest moment. As it gathers pace and its Eurovision-style chimes ring out, you can see exactly why Texas are so big in France.

Glyn Brown

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