The Spice Girls at Croke Park: A gleeful night of pumped-up pop and updated Girl Power
They’re back and they’re stronger than ever (sorry Posh). The comeback gig ended too soon
Twenty-one years after they kicked off their first world tour in Dublin, the Spice Girls make their comeback in Croke Park as a four-piece.
At their first live performance since 2012’s London Olympics Games, all eyes are on this new iteration of Spiceworld, and even though they lack a Posh, they make up for her absence in a gleeful indulgence of pumped up pop and a modern twist on Girl Power.
With a thunder of Brazilian drumming and pyrotechnics, it is announced that people of all ages, gender identities, abilities, races, religions, countries of origin and sexual orientations are part of Spiceworld 2019.
Mel C, Mel B, Emma Bunton and Geri Horner, who is sporting fire engine red hair for the first time in 20 years, rise up from below the stage – fully equipped with a Spice globe – and Spice Up Your Life, an anthem second only to Wannabe, begins.
Their vocals are live – with some minor microphone malfunctions – and their hands are held. The Spice Girls are back, and while they’re definitely not scripted, they’re stronger than ever (sorry Posh), with just the occasional dig aimed at Horner for leaving the group in 1998.
Bouncing from If You Can’t Dance into Who Do You Think You Are, the band’s energy is outdone only by that of the devoted audience.
We only have four women on stage but all five are represented in the crowd, with every variation of Baby, Ginger, Posh, Scary and Sporty singing the songs that soundtracked their childhood.
Running the “We know how we got this far, strength and courage and a Wonderbra” chant from the 1997 Spice World movie in between verses of 2000’s Holler, this show takes pride in the past but the whole package has a modern sheen.
Even 2 Becomes 1 gets a reboot with the “boys and girls look good together” changing into the all inclusive “love will bring us back together”.
Our girls take on 24 outfit changes that reflect the given personas that no one has been quite able to shake off, no matter what they’ve accomplished post-Spice. Each Spice wears her signature colour: Scary, leopard print; Baby bright pink; Sporty, blue and red; and, for the opening act, Ginger looks like the Queen of Hearts in a reworked Union Jack gown.
Introducing Goodbye, Horner says that they now use that song to say goodbye to the bad times and move on together, and just like that, the past is the past and this foursome is the way of the future.
During their disco set, which features Never Give Up on the Good Times and Love Thing, a cover of Sister Sledge’s We Are Family hammers that point way home. Every song though – even The Lady is a Vamp, by far their most ridiculous song – feels like a return to form that we didn’t know we missed so much.
Each song is anthemic, from the slowed-down-’n’sultry Too Much to the harmonica-ed-’n’-horny Say You’ll Be There.
Stop has a particular attachment for Irish fans, the video having been filmed down the road in Stoneybatter, and everyone’s light-up LED bracelets give the 21-year-old choreography a deserved glow-up.
When the Spice Girls arrived in 1996, it was refreshing for young women to see this kind of disruption. Their take on feminism was never academically perfect but their girl power – materialistic and consumer driven as it was – was a teeny, tiny ember of the actual, factual feminism that a large percentage of the 82, 000 people here this evening now practise.
Ending almost too soon, fireworks and Mel B’s distinctive cackle kickstart Wannabe into action. Wearing bedazzled versions of their outfits from the 1996 video, this is what a Spice Girls show looks like when everybody actually wants to be there.
If we knew then that fateful tour of 1998 would mark the start of the end for the five piece, then tonight feels like the start of something bigger; it feels like the send off they should have received.
While rock ’n’ roll acts like the Rolling Stones and the Eagles drag out the goodbye and comeback tours, the Spice Girls have built an empire out of suspense and it has paid off more than anyone could have anticipated.