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Concert Reviews:
Girl Power Reigns At Spice Girls Show
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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AUBURN HILLS -- The metro area apparently did not make much of an impression on Melanie Chisolm a decade ago.

Two songs into the Spice Girls' concert Saturday night (Feb. 16) at the Palace, the singer known as Sporty Spice or Mel C told her four bandmates, "Do you realize, the Spice Girls have never played Detroit before" -- forgetting, obviously, the British vocal group's Palace stop during its 1998 North American tour. Hey, the song says "tell me what you want," not what you remember.

Then again, Chisolm could have been splitting hairs. The Spice Girls that played the Palace 10 years ago was a quartet, following Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell's defection on the eve of the tour. So technically, this version of the group -- the five-piece that lit world on Girl Power fire in the mid-'90s with hits such as "Wannabe," "Spice Up Your Life," "2 Become 1" and "Say You'll Be There" -- has never played in Detroit or toured the U.S., making the Return of the Spice Girls World Tour something of an Event.

So it was a surprisingly substantial but still far from sellout crowd that trooped to the Palace on Saturday for an hour-and-45-minute dose of Girl Power 2008, dressing in lookalike Spice fashions and homemade shirts that paid tribute to their favorite member of the quintet. Women vastly outnumbered the men, but the original Spice fans now in their late teens and twenties were joined by a cadre of younger girls of the adolescent and tween variety who would've fit in at a Hannah Montana show -- proof that the pure pop never becomes passe and singing along all night even though you'd be hard-pressed to find a radio station that still plays any of the Spice Girls' songs.

Their devotion was rewarded with a stylish show heavy on visual pizzazz that mitigated the general thinness of the music. The multi-leveled stage housed moving video screens, lasers, trap doors and hydraulic lifts, and all sorts of other eye-candy to keep things fresh as the Spices, with their rhinestone-studded microphones, and 10 male dancers performed a series of tightly choreographed production numbers. "The Lady is a Tramp" found the Girls in black and the dancers in top hats and tails. "2 Become 1" was performed in changing booths with heart-shaped doors. "Viva Forever" took on a Spanish flavor with matador costumes and rotating platforms. "If U Can't Dance" began with the dancers working out to Digital Underground's "Humpty Hump," and the finale reprise of "Spice Up Your Life," which also started the show, featured an onstage conga line.

There was a bit of "high concept" to the show, too, what Halliwell calls "a story about light and shade...and the power of five." Hearkening back to her acrimonious departure from the group 10 years ago, she descended into the stage floor at the end of "Viva Forever," leaving the other four Spices to perform "Holler" and "Let Love Lead the Way" while Halliwell offered a solo version of the Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men" -- only to rejoin the group for the sentimental "Mama."

Mostly, however, the Spice crowd wanted to party, and the Girls brought it, with their own material, more solo spots (such as Chisolm's dance club hit "I Turn To You") and a few covers, such as Melanie "Scary Spice" Brown's rendition of Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way," sung to a male fan brought up from the audience and strapped to a ladder, and a disco medley that included Kool & the Gang's "Celebration," the Jacksons' "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)," KC & the Sunshine Band's "That's the Way I Like It" and Sister Sledge's "We Are Family."

It was, to be sure, a mild brand of spicy -- more froth than fire. But for those getting their first taste of the full complement of Spice, it made enough of an impression for Chisolm and her cohorts to remember that they have indeed been to Detroit.



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