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Live Review: Girls Aloud (Nottingham Arena)

Photo: Simon McMurdo

Opening with ‘Sound Of The Underground’, Girls Aloud emerge from the heights of Nottingham Arena on a platform embellished with their band name. Nicola, Nadine, Sarah, Kimberley and Cheryl have taken a generic, reality show product and stamped their name and flavour all over it – the original concept of the band may never have succeeded had these five women not been given the responsibility of making things work. You can’t deny that Sarah Harding must be a force to be wreckoned with when she sets her mind on something and, likewise, Nadine Coyle doesn’t seem the type to slap her name on just anything so it had to be brilliant. Thankfully for everyone, Girls Aloud excel brilliance on an albumly basis.

Following up their debut single with ‘No Good Advice’, the crowd are already on form, screaming  cheers of support for the group. Things really got going with the brilliant visuals that surrounded ‘Wake Me Up’ though, making reference to the often peculiar but endearing lyrics that have flavoured the band since the beginning. Later highlights include a seductive rendition of ‘Can’t Speak French’ which was crying out for just a line or two in french, à la the iconic irony of ‘Je Ne Parle Pas Français’ but few performances could top the driving ‘Sexy! No No No…’ which injected a little added excitement as the girls flew over the crowd onto a podium at the rear-end of the arena. ‘Untouchable’ was given an empowering twist as the girls each joined hands to give an unforgettable image that underlines the theme tonight – the fact that, regardless of where things go from now on, the members of Girls Aloud have enjoyed a massive amount of success and a turbulent journey together.

Photo: Simon McMurdo

There was plenty of camp, as we’ve come to expect from the girls – the epitome is which is usually ‘Something Kinda Ooooh’ but the drag-queen fashion of ‘The Show’ added just a few more feathers into the equation and became, visually, one of the most exciting moments of the tour with each girl emerging from beneath the stage in a fabulously OTT ensemble. A brilliant move was the encore performance of ‘I’ll Stand By You’ – a song which has been played to death but was given new life thanks to a heartwrenching montage of the girls through the years that played on the yet to be confirmed split as well as the heartstrings. During the encore in which Cheryl wiped away tears alongside a visibly emotional Nadine and Sarah, what might have hindered the girls, only added life to their performance and served to elevate their set.

The setlist is a crowd-pleaser and it was evidently formulated to be as such – the only non-single that gets an airing tonight is ‘On The Metro’ and the only non-hit being ‘Beautiful ‘Cause You Love Me’ and though you can’t complain at the value of the fantastically enthusiastic ‘Jump’ nor the definitive Girls Aloud classic ‘Biology’, it does leave the diehard fans a little short. In fact, that’s the only issue I have with the Ten Tour; it’s been marketed as a fan affair, with the girls taking the noble, if curious, decision to not confirm their split prior to the venture – something that surely would have sold even more tickets. The people attending these events are, however, pretty big Girls Aloud fans (the tickets, after all, weren’t cheap) and the dedication they have to the girls was exemplified in cold, hard fact when ‘Memory Of You’ received the most votes in the poll formulating the tracklist of disc two of ‘Ten’ but it doesn’t receive an airing tonight – nor do any of the other fan-favourites (‘Waiting’, ‘Girl Overboard’ etc). I’m not asking for an Kylie inspired Anti-Tour but perhaps a little more in the way of surprises for those devoted followers might have spiced things up a little.

Ending on that note would not be fair, though. The Ten Tour has a beautiful chronology to it that easily conjures nostalgia with ‘Sound Of The Underground’ and ‘Life Got Cold’ whilst celebrating the evolved incarnation the band has become with the undeniable ‘Call The Shots’ and anthemic ‘Something New’. Girls Aloud have done something that is near impossible in the fast-paced society we live in – they’ve stayed current, without changing who Girls Aloud are and what they stand for. Hearing the tracks tonight, they gel together in a way that few others bands would be able to manage whilst bringing in so much variety and the girls themselves certainly have a lot to do with catapulting these tunes to success. It is, to reiterate the point the girls have been making, a celebration and a final chance to revisit some of the biggest songs of the last ten years and each of them, in their own way, are entities that mean something different to each person here tonight. Seeing a band at the end of their journey after following them from the beginning is humbling and the upset caused by their split is exactly the reason they had to call it quits – the name Girls Aloud still shimmers brightly and it deserved to end just as it began, with some massive tunes, a tangible sense of euphoria and never knowing what is going to happen next.

Photo: Simon McMurdo

Words & Photos: Simon McMurdo

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