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Girls Still Feel The Spice On Reunion Tour

Of the Oakland Press

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Being a Spice Girl means being able to say you’re sorry — at least for Geri Halliwell, aka Ginger Spice.

The 35-year-old singer says that she “really pressed for” the current reunion of the British vocal quintet, which ruled the mid-’90s with hits such as “Wannabe” (the top-selling single ever by a female group), “Say You’ll Be There” and “Spice Up Your Life” and sold more than 55 million albums in the process. The group also starred in a hit film, 1998’s “Spiceworld: The Movie” and launched an infectious “Girl Power!” campaign that played well to teens and adolescents.

But Halliwell, who left the group acrimoniously on the eve of a North American tour in May of 1998, feels the Spice Girls had unfinished business to tend to and amends to make, to each other and to its audience.

“I wanted (the reunion) to be a healing experience for the relationship with the girls,” she explains. “I’d bailed before the American tour, and I wanted America to see us as the five-piece that we truly are. I think that’s when the true chemistry of the Spice Girls happens, when all five of us are onstage together.

“And I wanted us to remember the group as a five-piece, and how wonderful we were, so we could take something back for when we’re older.”

The reunion has resumed a story that began in 1994, when Halliwell and her mates — Melanie “Scary Spice” Brown, Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton, Melanie “Sporty Spice” Chisolm and Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham, the wife of soccer superstar David Beckham — formed in London and were shepherded to superstardom by future “American Idol” founder Simon Fuller. They rode a wave of marketing, merchandising and music to become a pop culture phenomenon — particularly in Britain, where they racked up nine No. 1 hits.

The end came swiftly, however. In the wake of Halliwell’s departure, the remaining quartet recorded one more album, “Forever,” which did well in their homeland but disappointed in other territories and led to the group’s breakup in early 2001, with each member pursuing a solo career.

Time apart healed some wounds, according to Halliwell, who’s released three solo albums and has been active in promoting the United Nations Population Fund.

“I felt like I wanted to make amends,” she says. “That was one of the biggest things for me, why I personally wanted this reunion to happen.”

But, she acknowledges, it wasn’t easy.

“Can you imagine — it’s like getting five ex-boyfriends together, and each one with different agendas and different lives,” explains Halliwell, who has a 21-month-old daughter, Bluebell Madonna. “It wasn’t the easiest thing for practical reasons, and emotions, as well.

“Thankfully, it happened, so it was meant to be. It’s just like sisters, like old family members; it doesn’t matter how long you haven’t seen each other. You belong together, and you get over everything else.”

Despite predictable press reports of infighting, particularly between Halliwell and Beckham, the former says that the reunion has been “an experience of a lifetime. I couldn’t have asked for it to be better.” She also says the five Spices have gotten better at dealing with each other.

“I think we’re more respectful,” Halliwell explains. “I think we get on. We respect each others’ differences and accept each other’s weaknesses and strengths.

“And four of us are mothers now, so that’s a whole different entity in itself. All the kids play together, which is really nice. There’s a very warming feeling, a very family kind of feeling backstage.”

Spice fans have certainly responded warmly to the Return of the Spice Girls World Tour. More than 5 million people signed up for ticket ballots that were initially offered on the group’s Web site when the tour was announced. The initial London show sold out in 38 seconds, though late tour additions in the United States have been somewhat sluggish. The reunion also spawned a greatest hits album containing the new single “Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)”, as well as a documentary, “Spice Girls: Giving You Everything.”

The tour — with performances featuring elaborate production numbers, eight costume changes and solo spots for each of the Girls — wraps later this month. Halliwell, who will introduce a children’s book series featuring a character named Ugenia Lavender this spring, notes that the group “probably won’t ever happen again” but quickly adds that “what this reunion has taught me is you can never say never.

“If you had asked me 10 years ago whether there’d ever be a Spice Girls reunion concert, I’d have gone, ‘No (expletive) way!’ ” she says with a laugh. “I’m still absolutely blown away that we did more than one show. So right now, I’m thinking this is it. This is the last time you will ever get to see this Girl Power, the five Spices on the stage as one.

“But, like I said, never say never. We’ll just have to see what happens, you know?”

The Spice Girls perform at 8 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 16) at The Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $122, $92 and $72. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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