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Music Review

Spice Girls still just want to have fun

Email|Print| Text size + By Joan Anderman
Globe Staff / January 31, 2008

Those five little girls playing dress-up at the start of the Spice Girls show? The ones who held hands and pranced about and turned into magical butterflies in the starry sky? In the span of a three-minute video, they told the story of the Spice Girls.

The real Spice Girls are on the road hawking the sequel, or rather a 10th anniversary edition of the same old story. Lo and behold, it's still an amusing read.

The tale began and ended at the Garden last night with "Spice Up Your Life," one of many anthems to positivity which, along with variations on a theme of Girl Power, constitutes the beginning and the end of the Spice Girls' message. There are worse mes sages. And there are far worse ways to spend an hour and 45 minutes than watching Victoria Beckham wave.

Posh was riveting for all the wrong reasons: her goddess-like status in the celeb-u-sphere and her insanely wooden physique. When she bent her knees to sing to her husband, it seemed that Posh might snap. In other words, she played her archetypal role to perfection.

And yet the show - the opening date of the Spice Girls' 2008 US tour - felt surprisingly authentic. It was a state-of-the-art production laden with precious few bells and whistles, which is a calculated risk when you're dealing with an act that just doesn't do much. The girls don't dance, and their singing is solidly democratic, at best. But there was plenty of hand-holding and loads of nice clothes (from fashion designer Roberto Cavalli) and a charming, old-school sense of fun to the proceedings.

Splitting the concert into four acts - The Power of Five, Seduce Me, Bitter Sweet, and Celebration - was a tidy way of programming some dynamics into the set list, which featured only a few songs anyone still cares about. "Wannabe," a joyful ode to female bonds, single-handedly justifies the Spice Girls' existence. "Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)," a drab ballad that's meant to be a contemporary companion piece to the old hit, is bad news indeed.

The night's highest and lowest points arrived during the girls' solo turns. Ginger, the firecracker, was disco-fabulous on "It's Raining Men," and brassy Sporty chased it with a turbo-charged "I Turn to You." But Scary, in signature leopard print, armed with a whip attached to a microphone and a male victim plucked from the crowd, made flavorless mincemeat of "Are You Gonna Go My Way." And sweet Baby executed a failed attempt to visit the swinging '60s on "Maybe."

Impenetrable Posh simply slipped on some shades and strutted the catwalk to the beat of "Like a Virgin." Know Thyself is a key tenet of Girl Power.

Most impressive was the fact that no backing tracks were used. Every note was live, and not a few were wobbly, but the whole thing felt genuinely festive. These girls can still supply the soundtrack to a super party, and make a whole lot of money in the bargain. And that was the icing on the dream of best friends everywhere.

Joan Anderman can be reached at anderman@globe.com. For more on music visit boston.com/ae/music/blog

The Spice Girls

At: TD Banknorth Garden, last night

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