The Spice Girls, April 5th, 1998
SEC, Glasgow, Scotland
By Fish


 

About a year ago, Fish took his daughter to a Spice Girls gig and he posted his thoughts about it on the Marillion mailinglist, Freaks. His hilarious review perfectly illustrates how overhyped and fake the girls really are and it can once again make you wonder how this type of music is critically acclaimed, while at the same time "our" genre is globally ignored and despised. Enjoy!


† Sunday, the "Spice Girls"


Needless to say Tara was genuinely excited and I had a wee tear in my eye as she discussed what she'd be wearing to the gig with her friend Rosie on the phone. It was one of those massive revelations about age and getting older. Rosie decided to go as Sporty Spice and Tara had to be Baby Spice as Emma ( the babes real name) is the cutest and was born in January same as Tara. By this point I'm worried and Tammi's wind up about front row seats didn't help things one bit. I began to feel physically sick at the realisation that I couldn't back out now.

We set of at 5.45 leaving Celtic well in charge of the Old Firm Cup Semi-Final against Rangers also taking place in Glasgow that night. As the journey wore on I had illusions of Kurtz and the river .The game raged on the airwaves and Rangers took control just as the traffic built up around us and we entered the torrent of vehicles aimed at the SEC,
the shed that was to be our prison for the night.. Rangers scored, twice, and Celtic even with a late consolation goal had to bid the treble farewell. One dream over and a nightmare about to begin. I awoke in Lilliput. Hordes of kids all dressed in the style of pre-pubescent chic, with it's awkward sexual undertones and gawkish glamour streamed , with startled and uncomfortable parents in tow, towards the venue.

Tara and Rosie were really quiet and subdued, I think more from being overpowered by the prospect of the event than playing cool. It was obvious from the assembling clientele that Sunday was ladies night as the males of the species had elected in the main to watch the live match on TV. This made it a good letchers night out and I must say that the standard amongst the audience was far better than at other gigs I've been to recently. (take note single guys out there). The only problem was trying to work out the real ages. Lolitas abounded and I must admit to being disturbed at the confused sexual chemistry. Standing next to me in the hall was a 10 year old with bared midriff, camouflage trousers and a bikini halter dancing provocatively holding two fluorescent tube sticks above her head and screaming at the top of her voice. Maybe it's be cause I'm a Dad to a wee girl who'll be doing the same dance in a few years!

Anyway I digress. We entered the venue at 7.15, the band were scheduled to go on at 7.30. The girls wanted drinks and edibles and 2 candyflosses (how appropriate), 3 cokes, 2 hotdogs and £10 later we headed for our seats in the main block just to the left of centre stage and about 25 rows from the front. Good seats if it was a Floyd gig.

The audience was the strangest† I've ever seen ranging from the already mentioned family groups to teenage pop fans and taking in everything from spotty anoraks to lager louts as well as the office night out from the secretary pool. The result fascinating. There was no real atmosphere and the screams of kids dwindled quickly as they got bored with Mexican waves(the fastest I've ever seen). The girls were late. The girls were 30 minutes late and the DJ playing the chart hits found it hard going getting a response from people generally unaccustomed to a live music show.( What made it worse for me was that old buddy Chris Rea was playing next door!). The 30 minutes dragged . The build up was like trying to blow up a punctured beach ball and the natives who were there for their kids rather than the event; ie me were restless and ass sore from the plastic fold up seats modelled on the space requirements for your standard package holiday jet.

At 8.06 (I told you I was bored) the PA kicked in with the intro and the grooves began. The old style theatrical curtain opened and footage of the Spicey Spaceship appeared on the 2 side screens and on the massive screen/doorway to the rear of the stage. The production was impressive. Tubular steel walkways and stairs in both wings with the band nestling
in between leaving the centre free for the Girls to arrive down the Busby Berkely steps from the screen/doorway.

It was obvious that samplers were much in use. I didn't even see a mike on any of the drum/percussion rigs on either side of stage which were matched by two keyboard set ups all of which were placed behind†steel mesh surrounds . It looked great, high tech and clublike with a hint of Starlight Express and Theatre. The lighting rig was well designed relying on "Icons" (we used them on the Yin/Yang tour) to supply the depth of the color changes. These computer controlled lights with their high intensity output and movement were perfect for the show and disguised a lot of the inadequacies in other departments.

The sound system was mostly flown to maintain sitelines and although the SEC is infamous for shed sound it was not too bad considering. There were only 2 clusters in the air either side of the stage and on-stage monitoring was nearly  invisible apart from a couple of flown side-fills. The Girls were using in-ear monitoring so stage volume was relatively low. Then again there wasn't much sound coming from stage anyway as most of the performance was machine generated with loops and nearly all the backing tracks performed pre-tour and on samplers. It became obvious when the girls spoke in between numbers that there was a vast difference between the luxurious chorus treatments and the thin shrill introductions. This was not a bona-fide live performance in any stretch of the imagination!

After 40 minutes the curtain suddenly came down without warning. It was the Intermission and time for kids to consume again. The set up till then had grown tedious very quickly and my initial fascination switched to my sore ass after about 3 numbers. Tara and Rosie were very quiet, no clapping or singing and the audience's animation evaporated on the fall of the curtain. It looked great when you could see the stage. The main problem was that the kids couldn't see a lot of the time and when they stood on the plastic seats a Security numpty was fast on the "putdown". £18 each to see the back of pizza monsters with a kid who thought that if she drunk diet cola with her fish supper all would resolve itself..I was pissed off. The kid standing on the seat next to me(remember her) hit me twice on the head with the green light sticks and only the intermission saved her from being tipped off. She had the rhythmic sense of Robocop in a magnet factory and was winding me right up.

The show hadn't really built before it was time to head for the merchandise stalls and catering set ups. To give the Girls operation some due the T-shirts were fairly priced at £14 for the standard garments but the "specials" at £18 for vests and the £6 for programmes were excessive in my opinion especially as most of the stuff was munchkin sized and the programme didn't seem that special considering the amount of magazines/photo collections available in most High Street shops. The food as I already mentioned was usual shed fare ie. overpriced and under nourished. The hot dog tasted quite literally as it was advertised. But boy did this audience consume, I felt sorry for the parents. I'd spent all our cash on more candyfloss and had an excuse not to head for the stalls, not that Tara asked for anything (I'm not that mean), and spent most of the intermission exchanging understanding glances with fellow sufferers and grabbing a sly cigarette while queuing for more candyfloss on a crunched up piece of cardboard (They'd run out of sticks).

The curtain raised and the gig went on...and on and on! Another hour and fifteen minutes worth of sugary arrangements, glamorous costume changes and in between song drivel including the expected shite Scottish accent attempt, the Scottish football strip and "we love you Glasgow" patronising banter you'd imagine coming from a bunch of girls that would look not out of place on stage at a Butlins Holiday Camp or on a cruise ship. The difference was the production. The male dancers that accompanied the Spicers made them look wooden after you got used to the bum wiggling and the posturing and the voices really did grate after a while. The sound was good , not too loud and clear enough to make out that it was fundamentally machines. In fact that was my biggest problem with the show. I'd paid to see a live performance and all it did was remind me of those crap Italian TV shows we did in the 80's where a zoofull of pop acts paraded their new hit single one after the other to an audience who came along for the spectacle. The difference was those gigs were free- this cost £18 a head!

The cynic in me was also aware that probably 40 per cent of the audience didn't really want to be there and were there as guardians rather than as participants. With Tara and Rosie craning to see the stage most of the time I didn't feel as if they were getting the experience they deserved as fans of the band. They stood on collapsible seats in danger of falling if they moved too much, being shouted at by Security to sit down or not to move into the aisles when they tried to peek round the corner. I felt really bad for them. Only once did the security attempt to get the audience to sit down en-masse and no attempt was made from stage to try and sort it out. Nobody seemed to care about the kids, after all the ticket money had been in bank accounts for some months now. The venue was sold out, the band were paid and the merchandise and food  were selling through nicely giving the Hall their percentage (25% of the gross I'd expect if the SEC follows the normal commission rates of major venues nowadays). It's no wonder the attendances at live events are dropping off if this is an example of a kid's first experience of gigs.

The Spice Girls themselves. What can I say? The songs were all the hits plus. They very rarely actually sang and only 2 of them made a serious attempt which was to say the least safe and methodical rather than raunchy. The machines and tapes seemed to harness all the energy and soul of the show making it more like a Top of the Pops appearance rather than a live in your face thing. There wasn't a bum note all night which added to the sterility and the Girls? In my honest opinion their stage presence is limited. There's no Gravitas, no real auras or genuine stars up there. If this act represents the spearhead of today's British music scene then we're in deep trouble.
I saw Duran Duran in their heyday play to a similar audience in London and they blew me away. They were genuine stars with great music and a great production. The difference between them and the Girls is immense. They have lasted I can't see the Spicers hang on as long. Sometimes on stage it felt like a bunch of hairdressers or secretaries having a great laugh after a couple of bottles of Lambrusco on a Friday night at the local Karaoke club. It looked right, the costumes and presentation were flawless, but it didn't feel right. I didn't for once feel that I was witnessing a phenomenon. It was more an ice statue in the latter stages of melting after a Wedding reception or to be less romantic watching an ice lolly on a high street pavement.

The set could have benefitted from a lack of intermission and tightening so as to maintain momentum and the excitement which the general audience certainly gave off especially during the big hits. But it dragged on and the "rollercoaster" petered out . It was noticeable from the older audience members around me that a shuffling of bums and feet were evident on the last 5 or 6 numbers. Everyone was thinking about change for the car park and the inevitable snarl up outside. My bum was sore and my back was aching as I spent most of the show crouched double so as the kid behind me could see. I hated it (or hadn't you noticed so far).

Tara and Rosie were still quiet at the end, they barely clapped and I was worried they hadn't got off on the show. I asked them . They loved it and Tara spent most of the journey back after dropping Rosie off asking me if I used tapes on our shows and what everything was that she had seen. She did really enjoy her night out and I was glad I went if only to experience the show as a "punter" for the first time in ages. I did honestly approach the show with an open mind. I wanted it to be good if only to show that all the razamatazz surrounding the Girls was justified and that the UK music business was still shipping real talent to the world. I got back to the car and threw the "Prodigy" on at full blast through an open window as once again the traffic sat glued to the highway waiting on an escape route Eastwards.

All in all the night cost around £80 for the three of us. Was it worth it? Would I attend another Spice Girls show? Did I enjoy the experience? Tara had a good time! Say no more.

 

 

 

 

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