Tonight we find them, amid rumours of an imminent split, in a sterile hall  their All-singing, All-dancing roadshow compacted into little more than a few cheap stage props and a bevy of preternatu

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The Amateur View

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The Amateur View

Pamela Anderson knows it, so does [a]Geri Halliwell[/a]. It’s time for downsizing. Hence globe-grappling, tabloid-headlining chart-princesses [a]All Saints[/a] have chosen to forego the nation’s enormodomes in favour of more ‘intimate’ venues. Tonight we find them, amid rumours of an imminent split, in a sterile hall – their All-singing, All-dancing roadshow compacted into little more than a few cheap stage props and a bevy of preternaturally toned dancers.

You might think this minimalism would offer Shaznay, Mel, Natalie and Nicole an opportunity to shine – instead, they look for all the world like they’d rather be someplace else. Sure, there are pristine white-toothed smiles, crowd-wooing arm-flailing, an occasional sisterly glance between the Appletons, but the mood remains strangely humourless, even though the atmosphere is buoyed by a frantically squealing audience comprised almost entirely of pre-adolescent girls.

On paper, it’s not difficult to understand [a]All Saints[/a]’ appeal – the canny combination of tomboy slouch and party-girl glamour, the series of highly publicised break-ups with highly desirable men. And in the beginning, of course, there was the surprisingly incisive pop perfection of ‘Never Ever’, which set them head and shoulders above the vacuous, overly-synthetic Spice Girls. Onstage, however, it’s a different story. Even though they are accompanied by a band (trying to look ‘street’ in baseball caps and combat trousers), a pathologically excitable DJ and a duo of slinky backing singers, the overall effect is one of a sloppily choreographed school talent show.

It begins dramatically enough. [a]All Saints[/a] emerge from a space-pod contraption, clad in gangster-chic fedoras and pinstripe suits. They strut, pout, and mock-whip their obsequious male dancers while entreating us to “give it up” to ‘Bootie Call’. You wish them luck, really, because God knows we need more divas who can walk it like they talk it, who can display sass, cool, wit and charm. But by the time they’ve costume-changed their way through the classic ‘(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me’ to the turgid Chili Peppers cover ‘Under The Bridge’, it’s clear there’s little spark or enjoyment underlying All Saints‘ arse-wiggling pantomime. At one point the DJ even bellows, “Do they look like they’re splitting up to you?!” Well, actually…

Rumours of [a]All Saints[/a]’ death may have been greatly exaggerated, but chances are they’re not terribly premature.