5 Become 1! Not sporty. Just very scary

The sound system was terrible and the singing slapdash, but did 16,000 fans at the Spice Girls' reunion concert care? Not at all. They were revelling in hearing their favourite numbers again, while their heroines were making a mint. Cole Moreton reports from the O2

I'll tell you what they want, what they, really, really want; your money. That's why the Spice Girls are back. No other reason was obvious from the stage of the Dome sorry, O2 arena last night, even though Geri, now more brassy than Ginger, said; "We are home. Thank God we're home."

It was the first time the five original girls had performed together since 1998. They started with a video of headlines from their heyday and the words: "The power of five keeps the love alive." But it was the audience that would provide all the love in the end.

Just like Led Zeppelin five days earlier at the same venue, the Spice (no longer) Girls were proving that an old dog can recycle its old tricks and make some new cash. But if that gig was about hairy old men, this one was more like the advert in which an army of women get ready for the Christmas party to the tune of "Here come the girls!"

While (not quite as) Sporty, (not very) Scary, (never was very) Posh, and (certainly not a) Baby (any more) were up there pretending to be friends with Ginger (Brassy), the fans had come with their real mates, mums and daughters, ready to relive the wild old days.

They were 16,000 true believers, like the twentysomething in a hoodie saying "University of Girl Power"; or the ahem-something in the T-shirt that said "Mother Spice". They sang along to everything from the opening "Spice Up Your Life" to the closing, er, "Spice Up Your Life (Reprise)". Even the solo stuff.

The Spices were only ever a few years babies, broken hearts and all ahead of their hardcore audience. The little girls who bought "Wannabe" grew up and were there last night, alongside those who used to bring their offspring but secretly quite liked the songs all along.

This was a spectacular show, obviously, as if they were challenging Led Zep. If Robert Plant and the others had 1.5 million applications for tickets, the Girls sold out the night in a record 38 seconds. Tickets were 125 for Led Zep, but the money went to charity. The average was half that last night, but as far as anyone knew none of it was going to be given away.

In presentation, the Spice Girls proved as expert as a Jimmy Page riff. The first of many costume changes came after song number one. The biggest cheers were for Posh in spray-on gold lam. But the five women prowled the stage together in a pack for most of the show, their dance styles alternating between stiffly robotic (well, Baby had sprained an ankle) and drunken-lass-at-the-disco.

They had dancers to do the smart moves for them, including being led by the neck on silver chains. Empowerment, you see? These women have sold 55 million records. If they were chunkier except for Geri and Posh, naturally then what was wrong with that? It made them seem more real, and the show was so slick that sometimes it was the only sign.

Could they sing? Dunno. There was too much screaming and singing along to tell you that. But the audience was having the time of its collective life. Again. Just like the old days. Girl Power used to be the message but the message now was about being a woman: if you've got a crap bloke, a knackered career and life is flashing by, just get together with your mates and sort it out!

After a karaoke disco medley and just before the spiky debut single "Wannabe" came "Mama, I Love You", with a girls' choir backing to ramp up the drama and image of the five as girls. Geri Halliwell is 35 now, Mel C and Victoria Beckham 33, Mel B 32 and Emma Bunton 31 and they have seven kids between them. The sound was terrible, the singing revealed as shaky and frankly a bit slapdash, but it had ceased to be about the music.

The audience, providing all the genuine emotion, was now singing for itself. A huge bunch of women with heads full of memories were giving each other the audio equivalent of the group hug the performers were having. It may have been fake on stage, done for sound business reasons, but for many in the crowd it looked real. Posh and the others should have been the ones paying the fans. With a lucrative world tour to come, they could afford it.

A journey back to Spiceworld, 1998

Geri may have been miserable, but Britain seemed a happier place the last time the original five Spice Girls performed together, on 'Top of the Pops' on 5 June 1998. Her famous Union flag dress had been in tune with Britpop and BritArt, and Tony Blair was talking about Cool Britannia. He still seemed the fresh-faced, straight kinda guy who had been swept into Downing Street on a wave of optimism a year earlier.

The Good Friday Agreement had brought the real prospect of lasting peace to Northern Ireland, despite the bomb that would soon be detonated by the Real IRA at Omagh. The Middle East was relatively calm, too, so petrol was down at 60p a litre, just over half the present price. The average house cost 75,000 as opposed to 230,000 now.

France won the World Cup at home, and, in a far bigger shock result, Dana International, an Israeli transsexual, won the Eurovision Song Contest.

In Washington President Bill Clinton was forced to admit that yes, he had been guilty of having sexual relations with "that woman" Monica Lewinsky after all. In California, a couple of geeks started up a little search engine called Google. And as for the Millennium Dome, where the reunited Spice Girls appeared last night, even that seemed like a good idea at the time...

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
Ministry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Richard Dawkins is known for his outspoken views
people
Life and Style
L’Auberge du pont de Collonges (AFP)
food + drinkFury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Arts and Entertainment
Bourne's New Adventures dance company worked with 27 young Londoners to devise a curtain-raiser staged before New Adventures' performance of Edward Scissorhands
theatreStar choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links