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What with ‘Out of Control’ entering the UK album charts at number one and their latest single ‘The Loving Kind’ increasing their record breaking consecutive top 10 entries to a staggering 20 songs; it leaves the audience expecting a lot. Welcome to the Girls Aloud: Out Of Control Tour opening night at Manchester’s critically acclaimed venue, the Manchester Evening News Arena.
The audience packs in to the 23,000 capacity concert venue early. A Girls Aloud show isn’t just about a performance on stage for many fans, their night isn’t complete until the official t-shirt, calendar, posters, key rings, programmes are all in their grasp just to make sure their night is even more memorable.
It’s clear the time is getting closer to 8.30pm as the atmosphere begins to heighten and the lights start to dim. The arena’s filled with young girls about to envisage their idols in person, young boys wanting a bit of ‘Something Kinda Oooh’ with the band members, a hens party causing a raucous that a certain blonde haired band member would be proud of and the mum’s and dad’s that have been dragged along, pretending they’re not excited but once the intro to ‘Love Machine’ kicks in it’s almost certain they’ll be up on their feet. This is a Girls Aloud show and as the crowd’s chanting gets louder and louder, the arena blackens out to a deafening screams the five band mates appear on screen welcoming the audience to the approaching show.
The extended intro of their smash hit number 1 ‘The Promise’ opens the show with the 5 most famous women in pop rising from the floor on a platform accentuating 20 feet above stage level. Belting out the 60’s inspired BRIT award winning anthem are: Irish Beauty, Nadine Coyle; Flame Haired Red Head, Nicola Roberts; Newly Crowned Angel of the North, Cheryl Cole; Mother of the Band and the ‘Real Women’, Kimberly Walsh and finally the group’s blonde haired vixen, loudmouth Sarah Harding.
The decision to open with ‘The Promise’ allows the audience to focus on the glitzy shimmering dresses that the girls have on, as the song comes to an end they whip the floor length silver dresses to reveal yet another 60’s inspired look, the miniskirt. They shimmy and shake to the album tracks ‘Love is Key’ and ‘Miss You Bow Wow’ before ending their first section with a stomping performance of ‘Biology’. The opening of the song allows very little time for Miss Coyle to breathe as the first 50 seconds of the song is entirely sung by her and it reminds the audience that although it’s band mate Cheryl who gets the press attention headlines, largely due to her stint on the X Factor and her marriage to England footballer Ashley Cole, it is Nadine who has the true vocal range in this group.
Simple dance steps to the simple lyrics of “the way that we walk, the way that we talk” won’t have the likes of Beyoncé quaking in her boots but for this show and this audience it works. Girls Aloud aren’t an outrageous dance troupe like the Pussycat Dolls nor or they amazing vocalists like Destiny’s Child. They are simply 5 girls that bring something different to the stage that have an energy that the British public voted for. They are British. British girls on stage doing what most dream of, their lives changed by us whom you can see on their faces as they perform are truly thankful for. The signs and banners, the gifts and the cards and the general support of them for 8 years means a lot to them which they thank us for before taking a wee break.
The audience is never kept waiting as whilst the girls go for a quick cozzie change, it is now the boys (the dancers) turn to entertain the crowd with a dance break to ‘Miss You Bow Wow’ keeping the audience glued for the girls return which happens as they rise up from the back of stage in black and white gowns to the intro of their latest catalogue addition ‘The Loving Kind’. The optimistic feel good track about love penned by the Pet Shop Boys specifically for this album reiterates just how far these girls have come. They were once ordinary working class girls, struggling to make it into the industry and now they are working with pop legends on their 6th album.
The mellow rhythm of ‘The Loving Kind’ allows time for a few audience members to take a breather but not for long as they integrate ‘Waiting’, an album track from their critically acclaimed album ‘Chemistry’, into the performance. It’s not a well known song so it’s clear who’s a Girls Aloud die hard and who’s not, for those that aren’t it gives them an idea of what is yet to come on their discovery of Girls Aloud as it entices the audience when they get home to go and listen to the old albums again. For those punters that aren’t a fan of ‘Waiting’ there isn’t much time for er… waiting as one of their most career defining moments is brought to live on stage.
Once covered by the Arctic Monkeys and was claimed by Kylie Minogue to have been on her wish list of songs she wanted on her album. Girls Aloud present ‘Love Machine’. The back drop of the stage has now become a fantasy machine with hearts pumping out simulating an actual love machine. There’s not a person sat on their seat as the crowd proves to the group just how much their song is loved. It’s something not seen everyday, 23,000 doing the same dance routine at the same time, which the girls later thank. They seem to be humble girls and Sarah comments that the first time she realized that ‘Love Machine’ was a hit single was, despite it being nominated for a BRIT award, Record of the Year and a TMF award, but when she heard it in Home base stores.
The girls seem out of breath which is no surprise, it is their opening night and after a few more shows they’ll be well into the swing of things. They take another breather in which Kimberley thanks the fans for supporting her and Cheryl’s climb up Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of Comic Relief. Many would assume that the GA camp would be happy to sit back and relax when they’re not touring, they’re fortunately mistaken. They love giving back to the world for the fantastic opportunity that they’ve been given. It’s hard to imagine what stamina these girls must have after climbing the highest free standing mountain in the world just a few weeks ago to now beginning a 40 date sell out tour around UK & Ireland. The thankful mood is reflected in their next song ‘Rolling Back the Rivers’ proving that a ballad doesn’t have to be an overly empowering emotional rollercoaster that the likes of Whitney, Mariah or Christina have given us. This is a 21st century ballad, a nice reflection on what once was rather than Jennifer Rush’s ‘The Power of Love’. ‘Rolling Back The Rivers’ has the same substance to a previous GA hit; ‘Whole Lotta History’, both songs allow the girls to present how they once felt in a previous relationship and how at times it’s nice to reflect and “roll back the rivers”.
As the girls fall below the stage to have their third costume change, there’s a sense of wonderment around the room of what’s yet to come. The arena is full of fog and dark lights with an eerie soundtrack playing as a dancer comes onto the platform in the middle of the crowd, revealing a B stage. He is dressed head to toe in black, purple & silver with a cloak covering his face that Darth Vader would be proud of. The balletic moves coming from the centre timed with the trance like music allow us to engage fully to the production. Something dark and mystifying is yet to become.
With the music gradually changing and the lights shimmering down on the main stage, five silhouettes are revealed to the crowd with a roaring applause. Standing on a platform across the front of the stage they start to rise up into the air. As the lights reveal the faces of the group, we are greeted with the innocent toned voice of Nicole Roberts “Through wind and rain we got here, now we’re running babe with no fear” not sonly showing just how far Nicola’s voice has grown from the shy 16 year old we saw on our screens during Popstars: The Rivals but it also shows us that those who critique Girls Aloud have someone to mess with. The song, the outfits, the posture, the being, the band all now in it’s 8th year show us that the five ordinary girls have come along way from struggling to make themselves credible on morning gunged shows like SM:TV Live, they are now the most successful girl band of all time.
They are, as their upcoming single announces, truly ‘Untouchable’. A 90’s trance inspired anthem will go down as one of the Girls’ most daring efforts but yet one of their greats. It’s not like anything they’ve ever done before and yet it seems s so right and current, telling a story of their careers lyrically “and when you’re around ooh, we’re untouchable”. A very clever decision to have this song opening their middle section of the show, showing the girls are true attributes. The performance shows that the girls have strength, determination, a strong work ethic and above all; a strong friendship which makes this machine work.
The lyrics suggest that if they’re not around for each other then they are “just beautiful robots dancing alone” giving the impression that they wouldn’t be the same without each other and they would be man handles by the music industry if they were alone as they wouldn’t be as powerful meaning that they would almost be like robots.
The now perfect song is performed as they fly across on zip wire to the B stage allowing the crowd to feel more involved as the surround the stage. It’s almost as if they are inviting the fans to become apart of the show. Those that are sat in the God’s definitely got a good deal out of this which the people on the front row might not be too happy about. After Nadine’s exhilarating climax to the song, the girls invite their dancers on stage as the power through ‘Sexy? No! No! No!…’, James Morrison’s classic hit ‘Broken Strings’ in which Kimberly is flawless and ‘Love Is Pain’ considered to be about Cheryl’s husband’s alleged infidelity of which she ends with song with a beautifully accentuated “Love is pain oh oh oh” of which she repeats.
It’s time to back to the main stage now and as they fly back singing their smash hit ‘Call The Shots’ we are once again reminded that these girls are just ordinary girls who dreamt of this. Nicola whispering gracefully “I’ve seen life burn bright, seen it shimmer” and as Harding gets emotional at those lyrics she explains that she’s a local gal who always dreamed of doing a performance here now, and now her dreams are literally glittering.
The final section of tonight’s performance is a hip-hop inspired track ‘Revolution in the Head’ in which Cheryl proves why will.i.am believed in her street dancing ability to cast her in his music video for ‘Heartbreaker’. The lyrics aim to give those who doubt themselves a glimmer of hope as they plead to the listener that a thought inside one’s head isn’t enough; it needs to be acted upon because that’s what these girls did and look where it has them now, neatly tying in with their next song.
Their debut single, which sold over a million copies and was at number 1 for a month is instantly recognizable. I implore anyone that was in the UK during the early 00’s not to recognize this intro to speak up. ‘Sound of the Underground’ solidified them as a true pop group and rather go down the route of their boy band rivals ‘One True Voice’ by releasing a cover,. They instead released this masterpiece of pop and 8 years on it still has people on their feet which continues as they pole dance their way through ‘Fix Me Up’, give their own take on Britney’s classic ‘Womanizer’, which is sung live by these girls and finally ending with their dance floor smash ‘Something Kinda Ooh’.
The crowd goes wild during the last song of the evening literally dancing off their “tu tu’s” and as we applaud the band and scream for the girls. The average punter agrees that it was worth the money.
The lights are still off and the glitter and confetti still falling from the ceiling. Lights are starting to pan across the crowd and just when the parents thought they were going to beat the car park rush, the 5 girls appear on screen. The screens show the girls flickering through various stages in their careers. The images show different styles, different ages, different hair colours, different music videos but all the while the same five girls until the present day. This is the point where the crowd’s screams of “we want more” are answered. The powerful 5 piece re-enter the stage in butterfly sequined corsets. This is their encore. They give the audience one last reminder of why they’re so good at what they do through fantastic performances of ‘The Show’, ‘Wake Me Up’, ‘Jump’, ‘No Good Advice’, ‘Can’t Speak French’ & their award winning anthem – a reprise of ‘The Promise’.
With confetti flying everywhere; the girls, the fans, the merchandise workers, the bar staff all could not be happier with how tonight went. It’s been a great night for all, a true party. A proper pop production from the most successful girl band ever.