wed 07/12/2022

Sugababes, O2 Academy, Glasgow review - pop perfection hampered by sluggish sound | reviews, news & interviews

Sugababes, O2 Academy, Glasgow review - pop perfection hampered by sluggish sound

Sugababes, O2 Academy, Glasgow review - pop perfection hampered by sluggish sound

The reunited trio delivered some classic tunes, when you could hear them

Friends reunited as the Sugababes take to the stage

Any younger Sugababes fans might have felt a little neglected here. “Who’s a 90s child?” yelled out enthusiastic DJ Shosh as she warmed up the crowd, followed soon after by a cry of “Who’s an 80s child?”, which received an even louder roar in response.

This was an audience seeking a nostalgic party all right, albeit a rowdier one than anything by the girl group during their chart-topping days, with even a pint glass sailing through the air during a lively opener of “Push the Button” that felt more like a rave than a pop gig.

The good spirits lay not just in the tunes, of which there was a formidable amount of pop gold, but also in enjoying the fact that Siobhan Donaghy, Mutya Buena and Keisha Buchanan seem to genuinely be relishing all of this. All the record company management directives and tabloid press fodder appear to belong to the past, for here were three women having a great time together, dancing with sass and style while enjoying every second of the praise being bestowed on them.

It helps that their best material retains such freshness. Not only is it over two decades since the group first formed, it’s been 11 years since the original trio first regrouped as Mutya Keisha Siobhan (an era that provided a handful of tracks here) and yet when the big hits arrived they proved as euphoric as ever, from the funk-flavoured “Red Dress” to the driving rhythm that “Round Round” motors along to.

There is a timelessness to truly great pop, a point ironically proven when the threesome delivered their inoffensive cover of “Flowers” by Sweet Female Attitude and, like a musical TARDIS, the gig suddenly warped back to the year 2000. It was a tune firmly of its time, whereas something like the strutting, stylish “Freak Like Me” would still conquer clubs this year.

Given the collection of chart-dominating material and the relatively brisk 80-minute set time, it should have been a dynamic night that succeeded beyond sating nostalgia. However, there were two hindrances to this. A set list that front and back loaded itself with the big hits resulted in a middle that sagged somewhat, going ballad heavy and leaving the trio competing with continual crowd chatter for attention.

It had some moments to capture the ear, including the sweet “2 Hearts” and their best heart-tugger in “Stronger” but it felt like the adrenaline was calmed a little too much, from the blandly motivational “Ugly” to a segment where the stools came out, which is under strictly no circumstances a welcome sight at a pop show.

A bigger problem was the sound mix, and particularly how it affected Buchanan’s vocals. They were considerably lower than her bandmates, which proved a real irritant during slower tracks when the song required her powerhouse voice. Instead it dipped down, again and again, leaving an anti-climactic feel, and also rendering any chatter from her mostly inaudible. It was strange, and an unwelcome distraction all night.

This issue was lessened during more euphoric moments, which at least ensured the closing “About You Now” was a triumphant blast of dance-pop with an undercoat of indie, followed by the group being presented with flowers to wrap up the tour. It was deserved appreciation as it’s good to have them back, but it’d be even better to hear them all in future.

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