Sugababes and Dragonette - Manchester Evening News Arena
First up tonight are Dragonette, led by the sultry Martina and her band of sharply be-suited cohorts. They’re pretty good at what they do and what they do is that 80s-pop-with-a-staccato-twist thang that’s been mined for so long now you’re never quite sure if it’s currently in vogue or just being tickled with the irony sledge hammer. Think Transvision Vamp meets Annie. They give it a good go and, in possession of a semblance of personality and a bag of half-decent songs they go for it like good ‘uns. They attract polite appreciation, which, in a near-15,000 crowd, half of them wearing pink Stetsons and being allowed to stay up specially, is an achievement of sorts.
Sugababes are that rare beast; a wholly commercial pop act, who, through an ongoing manifesto of actually-quite-good pop songs, have managed over time to remain popular while attracting growing goodwill and an ounce of respect. Having said that, lacking the pissed-up column inches and ‘personality’ that their arch foes Girls Aloud (Oh come on - it can’t just be me !) attract, they do tend to come across on the boring side of cagey. Surely even Heidi likes the odd Babycham ? I suspect they are victims of BSS (Beautiful South Syndrome); for all of their impressive record sales, they’re not actually anyone’s favourite band at all. A case of musical proportional representation. But …
Lest we forget, that greatest hit album is darn good, even if the more recent stuff is smoothing out in a clear bid to ensure their records end up in a shopping basket with a bottle of Jacobs Creek and Thai green curry for two. They kick off with ‘Red Dress’, hardly their most arresting moment but follow it with ‘In the Middle’ and the marvellous ‘Round Round’. Throughout the next 90 minutes, aided by a few costume changes, they deliver most of their shiny back catalogue. Crudely, I can do without the ballads; the more upbeat beats have much more charge to these ears. A reworked ‘Overload’ is a welcome surprise and they build smartly towards the set’s climax. Encores include their two smartest number ones – ‘Freak Like Me’ and a thumping ‘Push the Button’. As the evening closes they’ve changed into t-shirts bearing the legend “Feel my hits”. Hardly pun of the century and you know that other lot would have simply left the “t” in, but it makes me smile all the same. All in all, they’re alright, the Sugababes. Okay, you wouldn’t want to actually talk to them or owt, but for once with all this manufactured nonsense, the music’s what matters and the songs stand up. Tall.