First Night: Full-on power overcomes sound system turns Sporty into Squeaky

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The Independent Online
Spice Girls

Wembley Stadium

TO ATTEND a concert it seem you have to be one of the following:

a) a young girl aged between five and fifteen armed with the obligatory Spice rucksack, Spice banner and Spice T-shirt, or

b) a father, indulging your little darling while trying not to look up Victoria's scandalously short skirt.

Since I do not fit into either of these categories, I keenly felt the disdainful gaze of legions of youngsters while their bewildered fathers, apparently there solely to act as a climbing frame for their offspring, narrowed their eyes and silently entreated me to act my age.

With a string of No 1 hits, the can easily be forgiven for a few weaknesses, none of which was due to the absence of Ginger, aka Geri Halliwell.

In fact the foursome must be congratulated for seamlessly assimilating Geri's contributions into their own routines without confusion.

You cannot imagine All Saints faring so well without one of their pouting members, but the sound quality at Wembley did the Girls few favours as their voices often became either muffled or piercingly shrill.

Mel C (Sporty) gave the most energetic performance though her voice, widely regarded as the most capable, was often rasping.

Baby, aka Emma Bunton - sporting a dress emblazoned with a glittering E that, on any other pop star, would cause speculation about drug use - was every inch the cute, caring Spice with her chihuahua tresses and syrupy voice.

Even Scary Spice, with her usual stock repertoire of frightening facial expressions, got to show off her famous feistiness during an exhilarating duet with Mel C of Annie Lennox's and Aretha Franklin's "Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves".

It was rather revealing, however, that Victoria didn't get a solo or even a duet and you could hear why.

As she reached for the high notes in "2 Become 1", her voice fell off key and faded away, and the future Mrs Beckham resorted to that eerie Macleans grin that does not ever seem to extend farther than her mouth.

But the dads were in for a treat as the Girls performed their lascivious ballad"Naked" sitting on perfectly shaped back-to-front chairs without, or so it seemed, any clothes on, while later on the Latino rabble-rouser "Spice Up Your Life" even had the security guards dancing in the aisles.

From the cabaret send-up of "The Lady is A Vamp" to the sickly sweet "Mama", the Spices displayed a versatility and energy that puts them up among the giants of stadium rock.

The rest could do worse than watch and learn.