What, you may well ask, is a heterosexual man of my vintage going to see 1990s boy band 5ive and early 2000s pop sensations S Club for? It’s a fair question and in my defence I’ll just say that I love a good pop song. L-O-V-E! Despite what people might think, the late 1990s and early 2000’s were a terrific time for slick pop music, especially coming from the UK. Take That, Spice Girls, Sugababes, Atomic Kitten, Billie Piper, recent visitors B*Witched. We had Kylie of course. In the States the manufactured bands like New Kids on the Block, Nsync and Backstreet Boys, had their moments but for me always leant a little too much to the syrupy, middle of the road, wannabe R’n’B FM for my poptastic tastes. But the UK boy band that could do no wrong for me, consisted of five bad boys with the power to rock ya. 5IVE. Put together by the same team that had put The Spice Girls together, 5ive Emerged after Take That broke up and there was a hole in the market for a boy band and boy (band) were they right! 3,000 young lads auditioned (including a young Russell Brand!). They were massive in the UK and Australia went mad for them. They toured here in 2000 and it was crazy, pop hysteria at all the shows. At the time I was Djing at an Indie club, called POP! And my decision to play 5ive and Spice Girls in-between Oasis, Supergrass, Blur and Pulp, was…controversial, but these were A+ pop songs and the club was called POP! It gave Indie kids license to enjoy those mainstream pop tunes ‘ironically’.
There is a DJ on stage when I get there and he LOVES the bottom end. The bass in bone crushingly loud and songs that would go down a storm with this crowd are lost in nuclear level bass rumble. First up tonight are Big Brovaz and like all the acts tonight, are using backing tracks (i.e. no musicians on stage). Our friend Mr Bass, is leaning on the bass way too hard for my liking, making it hard to enjoy UK R’n’B quartet, as they do a brief twenty minute set of their best known songs. They were around for six or seven years (2002 – 2007) and while I don’t remember most of these songs, people are singing along with Favourite Things, Baby Boy, and went crazy for Nu Flow.
S Club 7 were tons of fun. Put together (like 5ive) by the Spice Girls management, they hooked into many of the things that had made the Spiceys work so well. Their music was super pop. Like pop songs that had been dipped in extra pop and had extra pop sprinkles added. They had their own TV show, like the Monkees, where the seven attractive young Brits had adventures in America and Barcelona. Each episode they’d do a song with full choreography and shiny clothes. It ran for FOUR seasons! For some reason you can’t get it on DVD or BluRay. They were so big in the UK that there was a kids version formed called S Club Junior after a TV show talent quest (they became S Club 8 as they got a bit older). S Club had a great run of super-pop success for about five years then split up. There have been a few reformations but the regular touring version these days is is Jo O’Meara, Tina Barrett and Bradley McIntosh (i.e. S Club 3). When they were here a couple of years ago Jo wasn’t well and it turned into S Club 2 (the show must go on!). No matter how many bits of the Club may be missing S Club bring the pop party and everybody here tonight LOVES the heck out of them. They still do all the choreography and smash through S Club Party, Natural, You’re My Number One, with a community sing-a-long atmosphere. With the roof being torn off the venue when they play Bring It All Back, Reach and the Billie Jean sampling Don’t Stop Movin’.
After some more skull crushing bass from our DJ friend it’s time for 5ive. Well, it is 5ive but there are only three of them, these days. Sean Conlon, Ritchie Neville and Scott Robinson are present, Abs and J are not. Like other pop phenomenons of that era Five had a solid half decade of huge hit singles, sold out tours and fan hysteria. They sold ten million records. A lot of those to the people in Thebby tonight I’d say. After the breakup there was a couple of attempts to regroup culminating in their participation in the UK TV show The Big Reunion, which attempted to put a whole bunch of groups from that era (911, Atomic kitten, B*Witched, Honeyz, liberty X and Blue) back together for a big concert. Serious if you have read this far, you need to seek it out and watch it because you will love it. That lead to an arena tour and more controversy about J deciding not to be involved. Abz was back for a while be left to ‘pursue a solo career’.
Tonight the three smash out all the fan favourites, Slam Dunk Tha Funk, Let’s Dance, When The Lights Go Out, their cover of We Will Rock You. There is banter and some dance moves, but they seem a little less enthusiastic about the chorey than S Club. In my head I was ticking off the songs from The Five Megamix, that I have played so often (they did them all). When started songs like If Ya Gettin’ Down, Got The Feelin‘ and Don’t Wanna Let You Go, everybody was going crazy. Thankfully DJ Bottom End has eased up on the bass a fair bit and the vocals are a lot more audible. They do some shtick (which they may have done the last time they toured) and it was good natured fun for everybody. Everybody Get Up has everybody counting before the ‘5ive will make you down yeah’ bit and they finished up with the massive hit Keep on Movin‘. Despite demands for more there was no encore, but a promise to return.
It does feel a bit weird that it’s time for nostalgia tours featuring boy bands and pop groups from the early 2000’s because it seems like that was five minutes ago to me. But it’s literally just of 20 years ago, which does my head in a bit. If these acts weren’t your cup of tea two decades ago, then you wouldn’t have gotten much out of tonight. But the huge grins on the faces of people leaving, told the real story. You can’t kill pop music.
Live Review by Ian Bell