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Live Review: Girls Aloud – 23rd June 2024 – O2 Arena, London, UK

6 min read
Iconic pop group @GirlsAloud deliver one of the greatest pop shows we have ever seen as they dominate the O2 Arena for the second of 5 sold out shows. Mindblowing! #TheGirlsAloudShow

Having waited over twenty years to finally see a full Girls Aloud concert, last night I was almost beside myself as I made my way to the O2 Arena to see the group on the 2nd of 5 sold out shows in the world-famous venue. I had seen the then-five-piece before but that was way back in 2003. I was a spritely early twenty-something who had – just a few months earlier – arrived in London from New Zealand to start a new life in what I considered the greatest city in the world for pop music. The girls had just scored a major hit with their debut single, Sound of the Underground and were part of the massive roster of acts performing as part of Party In The Park, an event put on by the then Prince Charles for the Princes Trust. I had other opportunities in the years that followed that I didn’t take up as most of my peers weren’t avid pop fans like me, so I regrettably passed up the opportunity to go alone.

But that was then, and I was not going to make that mistake this time around with the group finally reuniting – albeit under sad circumstances, having lost band mate Sarah Harding to breast cancer in 2021 –  but right from the opening song, this tour was just as much about paying tribute to their fallen bandmate as it was about music and nostalgia for everyone involved.

The group did not disappoint in any aspect of their performance last night as they made their way through their back catalogue, touching on most career notables over the course of their two-hour stage time. Opening to a roaring applause from the sold out O2 crowd, the four-piece delivered a gorgeous performance of Untouchable with each member elevated on a glowing disc and waves of fabric curtained to the floor from behind.

Dressed in figure hugging and shimmering one pieces or leotards, the group then drove through up-tempo hits like The Show, Something New and Love Machine with vigor and some of the most impressive vocals that we have ever heard at a concert. These girls really are the real deal when it comes to delivering live vocals and even despite the intense choreography that came with performing each number. At one point in the show Kimberly declared “we are working really hard up here, can’t you tell” – and we really could.

It was hard to take your eyes off the group even for a single second as there was always something jaw dropping happening on the stage that stretched halfway into the crowd and pocketed two sections of high price paying fans who often had kisses blown to them or a had member of the group outstretch their hands to shake someone’s hand as they filmed the moment in ecstatic glee.

Tributes to Sarah were dotted throughout the show and the giant visuals that served as a colorful backdrop to the group were often lit up with videos of just Sarah as Nadine, Cheryl, Nicole and Kimberly spoke fondly of who Nicola described as ‘Electric Sarah’ at one moment within the set.

As the group often mentioned, the show was about coming together, letting yourself go and nostalgia and there was plenty of each of those things as the crowd were up on their feet for the entire of the show, dancing along to the group as they prowled the O2 stage through tightly choreographed early hits like the defiant No Good Advice and the gritty Sound of the Underground, where each danced with their mic stands in similar style to the iconic debut singles video.

A few non-single fan favorites were thrown in amongst the many career highlights. Girl Overboard was a perfect inclusion to the set with its infectious Xenomania melodies, while On The Metro and Graffiti My Soul also found a welcomed nesting spot in the set; the latter showing off the groups impressive vocal technique and quick delivered, almost rap-style vocals.

In terms of highlights – there were just so many. An easy contender would have to be the groups performance of Wake Me Up. Emerging on motorcycles that rose in the air and travelled above the crowd on steel wires while bolts of lightening were cast over the giant screens – just like the songs visually stimulating music video – has to be one of the greatest live pop concert moments I have ever witnessed. The band also dished up music video nostalgia for their performance of Sexy! No No No as they danced on pedestals in bellowing dresses while imagery of knitting needles served as a backdrop.

During the course of 90 minutes, each member of the group was given the spotlight to address the crowd and give their thanks to those that have followed their careers over the last 22 years, or those that have more recently discovered the GA catalogue. The group seemed as tight as ever, whether it was through hugging each other or holding hands during the downtempo Whole Lotta History or their cover of Pretenders’ I’ll Stand By You, or having playful vocal showdowns as they tore up the venue while cannons of confetti exploded and rained down over them or burst of flames erupted from the rear of the stage. It was very clear that any drama from the past was well and truly in the past.

Nearing the end of the set, personal favorite – and in my opinion, one of the greatest pop songs ever written – Call The Shots was offered in pitch-perfect form before the driving Something Kinda Ooooh wrapped up the main section of the set and the girls departed the stage for one last costume change.

After a couple of minutes, each member of the band made their individual entrance to the stage dressed in a long, sparkly gown for their encore performance of The Promise. The hit – which earned the group a Brit Award back in 2009 – gave way for another tribute to Sarah, who was cast above on the giant screens, singing her famous “Here I am, walking Primrose. Wondering when I’m gonna see you again” lines. With no backing music to accompany her, the venue drew to a sudden silence, taking in the crispness of Harding’s powerful, rock-tinged vocals before the band re-entered the song, driving it through to the closing notes.

I’ve been to well over 300 concerts in my years – from intimate chapel events to grand stadiums in cities all over the world. Last nights performance was easily one of the top 10 shows I have ever attended. It captured everything that I love about pop music and seeing a pop act in concert – flawless vocals, an iconic back catalogue, impressive and dramatic visuals and an atmosphere full of unity, love and passion for the infectious brand of pop that Girls Aloud are iconic for mastering. Absolutely mind-blowing!

Setlist:
Untouchable
The Show
Something New
Love Machine
Can’t Speak French
Biology
Whole Lotta History
Wake Me Up
Sound of the Underground
Girl Overboard
No Good Advice
Graffiti My Soul
Long Hot Summer
I’ll Stand by You
Sexy! No No No…
On the Metro
Jump (For My Love)
Call the Shots
Something Kinda Ooooh

Encore:
The Promise