Sugababes reunion celebrates British pop period

Posted by Mike Schuck

Originals … Mutya Buena, Siobhán Donaghy and Keisha Buchanan of Sugababes performing earlier this summer. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

 

Bristol, SWX
The original three, a success at Glasto this year, performs a laser-focused set that never fails to be entertaining as they recover their close-harmonied 90s supercool reputation.

 

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Sugababes beg the fans to chant the catchy chorus of their 2007 song About You Now one more time before the music stops. "Can we turn the clock back to yesterday?" They yell in agreement. The answer is a resounding yes on a soggy Sunday evening that felt just like a top-notch Friday night.

 

That response has taken some time to arrive. It's been ten years since Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan, and Siobhán Donaghy, the original lineup, first got back together as Mutya Keisha Siobhán, three years since they reclaimed the Sugababes name, and just a little over three months since their sold-out Glastonbury performance turned out to be the festival's unexpected hit. Their performance is somewhat sleek and laser-focused as a consequence, making it clear right away that the Sugababes weren't just a fad in British music; they were a whole period. When you think they're through playing the tunes, there's always more to hear. It's like seeing a magician pull a scarf out of their sleeve.

 

The touch paper is illuminated by Push the Button while the trio sways in a distinctive manner. These subtle, recognizable embellishments important given the constant lineup changes that once cemented them as a tabloid staple - their 18 Top 10 singles, including six No 1s, were accomplished with four different lineups. Hole in the Head and Too Lost in You round off a murderers' row of an opening part. A magnificent Red Dress follows, its minimalist dancing playing nicely off pulsating lighting and lurching time changes from their dextrous band.

 

With the same air of cool that set Sugababes distinct when they launched Overload 22 years ago, Flatline—an outstanding song that was a resounding failure for Mutya Keisha Siobhán in 2013—is warmly welcomed back into the fold. The trio's harmony-group origins are also highlighted in the night's ballads, especially the passionate Stronger, which is carried on by the new British female band FLO, who are undeniably indebted to the three.

 

Round Round transitions into Freak Like Me before About You Now ends the song in jubilant fashion. The last seconds are a flex from a really excellent singles band. On Monday morning, there will be headaches, but only because of another yesterday that was worthwhile.

 

Sugababes tour the UK until 7 November.

 

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