I can clearly remember the first time I heard the Spice Girls. I was inside a roller rink, skating around in a circle and thinking it was glorious, when the beginnings of “Wannabe” blasted out of the speakers and into my heart. “Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want” was the call to the Spice Girls’ revolution, a social coup based on girl power and platforms, more or less. And I ate it up; I even attempted to start my own trendy girl group – modeled closely after the Spice Girls – despite having virtually no singing talent and absolutely no instrumental ability. I mean, if the Spice Girls could do it, why couldn’t my friends and I?
That being said, I had my doubts about going to the Spice Girls’ reunion concert. Let’s be honest: They never had any real vocal talent or even dancing abilities to begin with, and that was 12 years ago. What they had was girl power (yeah!) and a unique labeling system that allowed almost every little girl to identify with either Melanie “Scary Spice” Brown, Victoria “Posh Spice” Adams (now Victoria Beckham), Melanie “Sporty Spice” Chisholm, Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell or Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton (I was Baby). I was unsure of how the group’s spicy identities would translate into current fashion and choreography, and how their message would relate to my now (hopefully) more mature self.
When I walked into San Jose’s HP Pavilion on Dec. 4, the first U.S. date of the Spice Girls’ world tour, I was dumbstruck. I don’t think I have ever been or will ever be in a place with more females, namely 14-year-old girls, in my entire life. The arena rang with squeals of excitement while imitations of the fab five loomed in every direction; women and even a few men from 10 to 45 years old decked themselves out as their Spice Girl alter-egos, some notably better than others.
After an approximately 40-minute delay, the lights dimmed and the concert began with a video of a group of young girls, representing the Spice Girls, opening a box of iridescent butterflies that then flew around them and into the night. Cheesy? Yes. But it had Spice Girls written all over it.
The five then emerged from trap doors, wearing modern outfits designed by Roberto Cavalli that updated their signature looks into high fashion while still incorporating their personal styles. The outfits got a little brighter and a little more ridiculous with every number, in true Spice Girls fashion.
The great thing about the Spice Girls, and what made this tour a hit, is that they don’t take themselves too seriously. There’s no misconception, even on their own part, that they’re the greatest singers in the world. Frankly, they know they’re not that talented. Example: During the show, each of the girls was featured in her own solo performance, usually a cover song (with the exception of Sporty, who performed a song from her solo album). Instead of singing or dancing, Posh, the Spice Girl with the least amount of vocal talent, opted instead for a diva-like walk down the runway-shaped stage. She pretended to talk on a cell phone, posed for “paparazzi” and strutted her stuff. The crowd appreciated both her honesty in her talents and her commitment to her persona; it made her much more real.
Despite their lack of vocal talent, the girls turned it out. They rocked the stage with an array of costume changes and witty quips between songs, joking with each other and the audience throughout the show.
One notable difference was the shift of the star role from Ginger to Posh, aka Victoria Beckham, aka married to David Beckham, aka emerging American tabloid celebrity. Ginger was virtually ignored when compared to Posh, who incited a huge number of cheers every time her face appeared on camera.
Thankfully the women left the majority of the dancing to 10 male breakdancers while their own choreography consisted of arm gestures, hip shakes and careful walking. Although I was at first skeptical about the mesh of breakdancing with the Spice Girls, it fit together perfectly. When breakdancers are wearing outfits that correspond to each girl, including short shorts with the British flag, it just works.
Some memorable numbers include Scary’s solo performance of Lenny Kravitz’ “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” in which she tied up a male audience member and threatened to whip him with her microphone, which doubled as a leather whip (sadly, it never happened). Another was “Mama,” which featured a video slideshow of all of the Spice Girls with their mothers. The touching song and family photos left all of the Spice Girls and a few audience members in tears. “Viva Forever,” “Too Much” and, of course, “Wannabe” were other notable highlights.
The concert ended with a second rendition of “Spice Up Your Life” (the song) in which the girls did the Riverdance, formed a conga line, jumped around the stage and were as cheesy and fun as possible.
Overall, the concert was really, really, ridiculously fun. And despite the hearing loss and hefty ticket price, I would do it all over again. It’s even left me thinking about starting my own band again, but this time I get to be Scary. Zig-a-zig ah!