With a career behind her as one fifth of the best selling girl group of all time, several applauded stints on the West End Stage and a hugely successful solo career that has seen her turn out several studio albums over the past 20 years, you would think that former Spice Girl-turned-solo superstar Melanie C would have little left to achieve. Despite all of the success that has come her way, the driving hunger inside of the musician is what has brought her 7th studio release to fruition.
Led by synth-pop toe-tapper Anymore, Version of Me was released toward the end of 2016 and saw the singer, who has previously dabbled in pop, rock and dance and has even dished up a pretty decent stage show covers collection (2012’s Stages), venture deeper into electronic terrain. It proved a fitting genre for an artist who had teased us with successful dance-oriented singles like I Turn To You quite early on in her career.
With more than her fair share of chart successes under her belt, any tour from Sporty Spice is bound to be a hit-filled night of entertainment, as we have been witness to throughout her touring career thus far, and Saturday nights performance at London’s famous Shepherds Bush Empire, a venue that Melanie C has frequented on tour over the years, was no different.
As the crowd were warming up to the arrival of the Liverpudlian superstar, and following a fantastic set from support act Alex Franics, the West London punters were offered an early surprise appearance from fellow Spice Girl, Geri Horner aka Ginger Spice who arrived with friend in tow to a deafening response from thousands of voices cheering her name and taking snaps of the singer who lapped up every ounce of admiration from those below and above with a couple of peace signs offered and selfies taken.
At a little after 8.45pm the lights dimmed, the beat kicked in and the northern star danced her way onto the stage to new album lead single Anymore; the tracks synth-dripping melodies creating an early club atmosphere before offering fellow new album tracks Escalator and Version Of Me; the latter seeing Melanie take to a set of drums to the side of the stage and pound out the tracks rhythmic closing.
“I’m gonna be quite self indulgent”, Melanie confessed to playing the entire new album during the night along with something “a little spicey” which garnered the singer a rapturous applause that could have been heard in nearby suburbs. On that note she continued her journey through tracks from the record which included the pulsating Room For Love and piano ballads Unraveling and Loving You Better, which both came peppered with some of the nights more beefier chorus’; the crowd swaying along with the singer who was dressed in a figure complimenting, shoulder-less and tattoo-revealing black dress, gold belt and a killer pair of shoes that increased the height of the pint sized superstar by at least a few extra inches.
While new album Version Of Me holds centre stage during this current tour, a handful of hits were interjected between the lesser known numbers, giving the set a beautiful balance of new and old; as the musician announced to the crowd, “Is there anyone here who would like to hear an oldie” before swinging into a sweeping, pitch-perfect performance of Northern Star from her 1999 solo debut.
Fellow Northern Star highlight, Never Be The Same Again was a clear highlight within the set; the crowd giving their all in providing the singer with a united backing vocal as she strutted the stage to the tracks infectious rhythm.
As the crowd enjoyed tracks from the new record alongside a small number of debut album highlights, the leading lady delivered a remarkable cover of Rag ‘N’ Bone Man’s breakthrough hit, Human into the middle of the show; declaring to the crowd “I think it’s a bit foolish to do a cover of an artist who’s a really big bastard” before offering a rendition that would make the Brit Award winning creator of the track proud.
Closing the main part of the set, Melanie gave the audience something they had waited for from the beginning of the show when it was announced that something ‘spicey’ would be revealed. With its recognizable beat, it didn’t take long for the audience to pick up on the arrival of the Spice Girls second number one single, Say You’ll Be There. With her former Ginger band mate watching on, Melanie offered the single in solo form; sealing the main section of her set with pure pop nostalgia.
With a performance of Hold On opening the 3-song encore and welcoming support act Alex James back on stage for a mesmerizing duet, the musicians 2011 album, The Sea was perfectly showcased through a punchy performance of Think About It before a burst of lasers welcomed one of the highlights of any Melanie C concert; I Turn To You in all its remixed glory. The track immediately turned the Shepherds Bush Empire into a techno-fueled nightclub as the flooring shook with the crowd dancing to one of the musicians most celebrated hits; ending the night with flawless showmanship.
Dancing energetically for the majority of the show in front of her backing back of four and the stars name brightly lit in changing colours overhead, Melanie’s raw talent and natural charisma owned the show; the singer unleashing various tracks from her new record to a loud and very enthusiastic Saturday night crowd.
Melanie C has long retained the reputation of being THE musician out of her previous Spice outfit having released 7 records and remaining a consistent stage performer, taking to the road frequently to show off her new records and successful back catalogue. Version Of Me is yet another reminder of Melanie’s staying power in pop and her ability to keep her fans satisfied through the supporting stage shows that she, quite frankly, slays! In a space where she has frequented many times during her solo career, including her 40th birthday in January 2014, the Shepherd’s Bush Empire served as a perfect spot to deliver another remarkable set of old and new for her fans who lapped up every note and word from one pop music’s brightest talents.
Version of Me
Room for Love
Something for the Fire
Human (Rag N Bone Man cover)
Loving You Better
Never Be the Same Again
Say You’ll Be There (Spice Girls)
Think About It
I Turn To You
Photos by Marlene Marino
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