Nothing is ever simple with Sugababes, a pop group whose various personnel and musical changes would make an amazing miniseries – Ryan Murphy, are you paying attention? This sold-out London show begins with a brief technical hitch that means Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy – the original and defining line-up – have to restart their opening banger ‘Push The Button’. “Hi, mummy!” says Buchanan as she waves into the crowd to fill time. It’s a tad awkward, but thankfully doesn’t set the tone. For the next 80 minutes, Sugababes deliver the harmony-drenched pop nirvana that made this summer’s Glastonbury set such a highlight.
This line-up last toured in 2013, when they were known as Mutya Keisha Siobhan due to not owning the rights to the Sugababes name. Since, they’ve released just one new song – a glistening cover of Sweet Female Attitude’s ‘Flowers’ – but it doesn’t really matter. Tonight’s set begins and ends with some of the best British pop songs of the early noughties, but cleverly weaves in a few deep cuts for the faithful. Mutya Keisha Siobhan’s sole official single, the stunning, Dev Hynes-produced ‘Flatline’, is greeted like the big hit it should have been. ‘Today’, a trip-hop banger made with pop alchemist MNEK, is another shoulda-been smash featuring harmonies so taut you could hang laundry off them. The latter was intended for an unreleased Mutya Keisha Siobhan album that later leaked, which may explain why some fans know the lyrics.
Still, the lion’s share of tonight’s crowd have come to hear the high-quality pop that soundtracked their childhoods. ‘Too Lost In You’ provides the obligatory phones-in-the-air moment, ‘Overload’ features strutting choreo lifted straight from the CD:UK era, and ‘Ugly’ proves really rather moving. Though the latter is now almost twenty years-old, its lyrics about self-acceptance and body-positivity remain poignant in an increasingly cruel social media era.
Early on, Sugababes even sing the thunderous ‘Red Dress’ – a generous move, given that this song isn’t popular with every band member. Perhaps inevitably, the trio’s vocals are sometimes drowned out tonight by an enthusiastic crowd. But when they’re not, their vocal blend remains magical – one of the things that made their 2001 debut ‘One Touch’ so special.
The gig ends with a thrilling trinity of chart-toppers: the off-kilter pop of ‘Round Round’, their lusty mashup cover of Adina Howard’s ‘Freak Like Me’, and the heroically catchy ‘About You Now’. How many groups can go out with tunes this good? We know the Sugababes story doesn’t end here: they’re already booking festival slots for next summer, where this show will slay. But whatever happens next, it looks like the group’s original line-up have well and truly reclaimed their legacy.
‘Push The Button’
‘Hole In The Head’
‘Too Lost In You’
‘Love Me Hard’
‘Freak Like Me’
‘About You Now’