Wembley Arena

[B]GILL WHYTE[/B] comes to the [a]Spice Girls[/a] not to criticise but to applaud. Girl power has spared no-one...

Wembley Arena

As XFM falls, record sales slump and tumbleweed skitters through the offices of A&M, somewhere, a wee girl dressed in tight lime-green Lycra is laughing - maybe not directly at us, although she might as well be. Her deely-boppers wobble with glee, she has seen the future, and the future is pastel pink with silver bits. And she wants it now.



The thing she really wants, the thing she must have, is the Spice Girls 'programme' - it is, of course, pink and, at over two-foot long, taller than most of the mini consumers considering the purchase of dog tag, button badge or - the ultimate consumer double whammy - a special-edition Spice/England footer top from the vendors of all things Spice who line Wembley Way. Meanwhile, down on pitch level, where an awesomely huge, silver, sci-fi princesses' palace dominates the stadium and serves as the Spice stage, the anticipation during the three-and-a-half hour wait from doors open at 4pm proves too much for the more tantrum-prone amongst us. Diversionary tactics arrive in the form of Richard Madeley, arguing with security about his seat allocation; Denise Van Outen and Jay Kay, only half-heartedly trying not to be noticed; and, weirdly, Alan Shearer.



At last, as twilight descends, a low sonic rumble twitches trouser hems and two massive monitors depict galaxies whizzing by. As the Spice Girls' saucer-style spacecraft touches down onscreen, two large doors loom into view at the back of the stage. The four Spices enter, unfurling themselves, butterfly-like, as if from a long sleep. Nine-year-old thumbs are sucked with quiet awe. Spunky girl anthem 'Who Do You Think You Are' kicks in, and luminous green disco batonettes (lighters? Where you been?) are waggled aloft and the pin-pricked sea of light it forms makes the capacity crowd purr at their own magical inventiveness.



After the raunchy vigour of 'Do It' - which sees newlyweds Mel B and dancer Jimmy Gulzar giving it some very convincing lambadaing - Baby begins the banter: "Hey, lady with the baby! Sit down! Rest Your feet!" before the preggars Scary rejoins in northern cabaret stylee, "Eeee, you're reeet, me back's gone!" Baby then rubs Posh's tum and declares, "She's gonna have a baby." Coo. You see, they ain't so very dumb, these Spice Girls. They do normal, conventional things - get married and have babies - but they have fun, they wear spangly clothes; and when you're nine, doing grown up things whilst being spangly is top banana.



Which is why Geri, with her absurd ambitions, is not missed at all tonight. The Spice experience is about one thing: being a girl. Not in some Mansun alternative to the stresses of being a man. No, this is about a state prior to puberty, prior to worrying about cellulite and boys; a time when playing with your image means painting your toes and imagining you're a princess. Girl Power is as pure a form of feminism as is possible. It doesn't matter that it's prepubescent escapism.



When the Spices' spaceship takes them away at the end, the screens show a diminishing Earth moving away from us; credits for the show begin to roll, confirming the fictional nature of the product. And yes, some of it was shit, but when the two Mels lead the celebratory stomp of a punked-up 'Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves', with its [I]"conscious liberation of the female state"[/I], and mums and daughters clamber up onto chairs together, flashing victory Vs and wobbling their butts in unison, one thing's clear: the happy customer is always right.

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