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28th May 2024

The Girls Aloud Show: A touching return from a legendary girl group

After over ten years away from the stage, pop sensation Girls Aloud bring their reunion tour to Manchester’s AO Arena
The Girls Aloud Show: A touching return from a legendary girl group
Photo: Samuel Chamberlain @ The Mancunion

After forming on ITV talent show Popstars: The Rivals in 2002, Girls Aloud released five albums in just as many years, spawning four number-one singles and becoming one of the UK’s most renowned, popular, and well-known girl groups. Following 11 years of absence, their return marks a remarkable event in UK music, as hundreds of thousands of fans are expected to descend upon the nation’s arenas to see their favourite girl group live and revel in nostalgia.

As it approached nine o’clock, excitement reverberated around the venue. A curtain fell, revealing the girl group rightfully atop podiums, and the set began with ‘Untouchable’. From the beginning, audience members of all ages were enveloped in emotion: tears, smiles, and screams abound as lyrics are dutifully and joyfully recited. ‘The Show’ followed, and it became easy to see why this song in particular is popular amongst fans, combining infectious melodies and hooks with themes of independence and self-confidence.

‘Something New’, a bouncing record centred around female empowerment in the manner of Beyoncé’s ‘Run the World (Girls)’, continued the upbeat, self-confident tone that ‘The Show’ began, further enlivening the crowd as it was met with significant energy from all in attendance. “Tonight, you are with us”, declared Nadine Coyle before the track started, setting a tone of joviality, celebration and remembrance which sustained until the very end. ‘Love Machine’, ‘Can’t Speak French’, and ‘Biology’ also appeared in the show’s first act, before ‘Whole Lotta History’ was performed and the girls left the stage in a touching tribute to Mancunian and former member Sarah Harding, who tragically passed away due to breast cancer in 2021.

Girls Aloud
Photo: Samuel Chamberlain @ The Mancunion

‘Wake Me Up’ began the second act of the night with the girls floating onto the stage aboard sleek black motorbikes, one of many demonstrations of the show’s high production quality. Platinum single ‘Sound of the Underground’ followed, which is arguably the group’s biggest departure from sugary electropop, and was accompanied by flames that could be felt even from the seats. Released in December 2002, ‘Sound of the Underground’ became that year’s Christmas number one and has since maintained its legacy as an undeniable crowd-pleaser. Live, its juxtaposition of surf rock and electronic beats turned an already invigorated audience ecstatic from the moment the iconic opening guitar riff began.

‘Girl Overboard’ will have come as a pleasant surprise for many Girls Aloud fans: the song made a return for this tour, but previously had been left out of the group’s setlists since 2008. Accordingly, it was met with a rapturous reception, and was followed by ‘No Good Advice’, ‘Graffiti My Soul’, and ‘Long Hot Summer’. In between songs, Cheryl Tweedy informed the audience that Sarah Harding’s mother was in attendance, making their tributes to her all the more moving. Closing the show’s second act was ‘I’ll Stand by You’, the group’s cover of The Pretenders’ song of the same name. This song, in particular, proved another perfect opportunity for a poignant tribute made all the more moving considering The Girls Aloud Show marks the first time the remaining members have reformed to perform live since the death.

As if the show hadn’t already been energetic enough, its third act really stepped it up, opening with ‘Sexy! No no no…’. ‘Jump’, the group’s cover of The Pointer Sisters’ number one hit, was matched in its vigour with confetti, while ‘Call the Shots’ was also unsurprisingly one of the standout tracks of the night: its anthemic electropop rang out across the AO Arena, with the audience reciting every word. Closing the night’s third act was ‘Something Kinda Ooooh’, before the four stars departed to fervent cheers.

Photo: Samuel Chamberlain @ The Mancunion

‘The Promise’, Girls Aloud’s choice for an encore, is nostalgic not only in its 2000s context but also in its mirroring of traditional, pioneering 1960s girl groups such as The Ronettes, The Supremes, and Martha and the Vandellas. Taking these groups’ layered sound and glamorous image, yet mixing in a modern pop sensibility, ‘The Promise’ is arguably Girls Aloud’s masterpiece, and the perfect choice to close the set. As the audience left their seats, chants of “You’re gonna make me, make me love you” continued to echo around the arena, bringing an unforgettable end to a night to remember.

Throughout The Girls Aloud Show, every member was allowed their time to shine, with solos, choreography, and outfit changes aplenty. Perhaps unexpectedly, the show was a genre-defying spectacle, bounding between the group’s signature electropop to rock and soul influences. Despite having an extensive back catalogue of original songs and cover versions to choose from, Tweedy, Coyle, Walsh, and Roberts have managed to select a near-perfect array of both energetic hits and solemn fan favourites. After 22 (albeit interrupted) years at the top, it’s hardly a surprise that the group still ‘Call the Shots’: The Girls Aloud Show is just another testament to their aptitude.

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