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22nd February 2022

Live Review: Mel C at O2 Ritz

Theatre Editor Jay Darcy reviews Mel C, aka Sporty Spice, at O2 Ritz Manchester
Live Review: Mel C at O2 Ritz
Photo: Jay Darcy @ The Mancunion.

Victoria “Posh” Beckham is obviously the most successful of the Spice Girls, but that’s as a fashion designer and businesswoman, not a musician. When it comes solo music careers, none of the girls have achieved the same level of success as Melanie “Sporty” C, otherwise known as Mel C.

After seeing her live, I know why.

Not only does she have a sweet, soothing voice, she’s also a great entertainer. She’s not a trained dancer, but she knows how to move – or, as the Spice Girls would say, “shake it.” She pretty much turned the stage into a bouncy castle, hopping from corner to corner, rarely stopping to catch her breath. Her abs are clearly well-deserved.

Her outfit was simple but swanky, exactly what you’d expect from Sporty Spice, though she ditched her blazer after the first song – unsurprising, given all that bouncing around.

She’s not so much a performer, but she knows how to work a stage. The audience was enthralled, if not because of her undeniable, tantalising talent then because of her underrated, wonderful wackiness. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, and that’s refreshing to see. For instance, she ended one song shortly after starting it because she wasn’t focused – she said she was too busy thinking she’d gone too far with her remark about being over COVID – and forgot the words to another, instead singing something along the lines of, “I can’t remember the words.”

It’s not that she wasn’t focused or committed; she just likes to have fun whilst performing. Her unpredictability is undeniably part of her appeal.

Although Mel C had some big hits back in the day, I was not familiar with any of them until I listened to them the other day. These included ‘Goin’ Down’ (her debut single), ‘Northern Star’ (the title song from her debut album), and ‘Never Be the Same Again’ (her first number one, which featured the late, great Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes from TLC).

She also performed ‘When You’re Gone’ with a member of her band, who took the place of Bryan Adams. Although Mel was billed as a featured artist on ‘When You’re Gone’, it’s the first song she sang solo on, so it must have been touching for her oldest fans (and there were a lot of old people in the venue, let me tell you).

Whilst I was unfamiliar with Mel’s older stuff, I knew a few of her newer songs. Her self-titled album is a dazzling dance record that serves to soothe your soul. I listened to the whole thing ahead of the concert. This woman knows how to make a bop!

She sang most of the tracks from her latest album, as well as most of her biggest hits, creating the perfect blend between a nostalgic past and a nourishing present.

Perhaps the highlight of the night was towards the end of the concert when she sang two Spice Girls hits: ‘2 Become 1’ and ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ – their third and fourth singles, respectively.

It was weird seeing her sing these songs alone. Forget ‘2 Becomes 1’ – more like 5 became 4 becomes 1!

Mel C, herself, admitted that singing (and dancing along to) ‘Who Do You Think you Are’ alone is weird, especially because it requires so much energy, and audiences are used to seeing a group doing a routine. She said that the song is usually performed by a group of five, before adding,or four. These little quips were commonplace during Mel’s set. She’s known for being candid and frank – take her acknowledgement that her new music won’t receive airplay because she’s a “mature” artist – so I’m glad she brought her fun, silly nature to the stage.

I loved how much she directly addressed and engaged with the audience throughout the set, welcoming us into her wacky, little world. She clearly loves her fans. I was beginning to feel more like a friend than a fan. In fact, I never really considered myself a fan before the gig… I do now!

Mel’s refusal to conform to expectations reached its peak when she scrapped the encore and basically incorporated it into the main set. She walked offstage and then quickly came back on, explaining that she did not want to do a proper encore because they’re too formal – but she was surprised that the audience hardly applauded (as she left the stage) or whooped (for her to come back on).

She then performed her final two songs: the feel-good anthem ‘High Heels’, which featured Sink the Pink, and ‘I Turn to You.’ The latter made Mel the first woman to top the UK charts as part of a quintet, quartet, duo, and as a solo artist. It was her second and final UK number one single as a solo artist and 10th UK number one as a songwriter. She later achieved her 11th when the Spice Girls released ‘Holler.’ I don’t think people realise just how successful Mel C is – I certainly didn’t.

The gig was a real riot. Fun, lively, and energetic; she sure lives up to her nickname.

Mel C’s UK tour has now ended, but she’s performing at some festivals later this year.

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected].

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