The Spice Girls are back — and it's almost like the last two decades never happened.
The Posh-free four piece made a triumphant debut at Dublin's mammoth Croke Park Stadium overnight, performing a hit-packed set to 82,500 eager fans.
First, to address the very thin, glamorous elephant in the room: no, Victoria Beckham did not join Geri, Mel B, Mel C and Emma on stage. Her decision not to join the tour wasn't addressed, so it seems it's full steam ahead for the now-quartet. And much as she would've been welcomed, her absence was hardly noticed.
It turns out that one press photo of the four piece released when they announced the tour, looking more Real Housewives than Spice Girls, was a bit of a bait and switch. Instead, they took to the stage at Croke Park looking like highly evolved versions of their iconic 90s Baby, Ginger, Sporty and Scary personas. Mel C, a manga action hero with high pony and rock hard abs; Mel B poured into a leopard print catsuit, her hair a huge Afro; Emma, gorgeous and ageless as ever in baby-doll pink, and Geri — her hair red once more! — in a floor-length adaptation of her iconic Union Jack dress.
"We're four grown women dressed as a superhero, a princess, a queen and a leopard — I hope you all get a good laugh, because it's for you," said Geri.
The staging is simple yet spectacular, a giant colourful central globe on stage recalling that brief mid-90s period — just two years between the release of Wannabe and Geri leaving — when the Spice Girls really did take over the world.
Their dancers are a revelation — a 20-strong troupe divided into four 'houses', one for each Spice Girl, each member channelling their house mother's Spice persona.
ALL THE HITS
The set list is a Spice Girls fan's wet dream. All of their hit singles are performed — only 2007 ballad Headlines misses out — but the real joy comes from the surprising inclusion of a number of their best album tracks. the TLC-esque Something Kinda Funny, disco pounder Never Give Up On The Good Times and their almost debut single Love Thing all get an airing, most for the first time in 20 years. Heck, they even throw in a quick performance of the 'We're the Spice Girls yes indeed' drill sergeant rap from Spiceworld The Movie for good measure.
GERI VS MEL B?
It was impossible not to keep one eye on Geri and Mel B given their recent very public controversy. To catch you up: Mel B publicly confirmed pop's worst kept secret — that she and Geri had once hooked up back in the day — and as the story spread, Geri publicly expressed her hurt. Was there trouble in Spiceworld? Would the tour be cancelled?
Far from it. The pair shared a friendly intimacy on stage, laughing and joking mid-song — often during serious ballads.they finished mushy number Let Love Lead The Way hand-in-hand, tenderly singing the lyrics to each other.
Elsewhere, the old friends traded barbs about Geri leaving the group back in 1998 — on Mel B's birthday, no less. "The best birthday present of my entire life," Mel B quipped.
First night nerves seemed to affect Geri the most, particularly when performing the songs released after she'd left the group (she looked rather like she wanted the stage to swallow her whole while body-popping in black leather for R & B jam Holler).
WHERE TO NOW?
As it stands, the Spice Girls triumphant return is limited to a few short weeks, ending with a handful of sold out Wembley Stadium shoes in mid-June. It'd be a shame if it ended there. This is the most euphoric pop show you'll see all year — slickly produced and tightly choreographed, it's a lot of work to put in for just a few (admittedly massive) tour dates.
There've been rumours of the girls considering offers from America, but 23 years since the release of Wannabe, they still have yet to perform a single concert in Australia. Why not break us in with the their best-ever show?
Come on, girls: say you'll be there.