Girls Aloud dazzle Newcastle with a pop-perfect comeback tour: The Show review

Girls Aloud in Newcastle
-Credit: (Image: Christine Russell)

For the past few years, it's felt like there's been a significant absence in the British music scene, and that void was none other than Girls Aloud.

Based on their first of three consecutive gigs in Newcastle on Friday night, it's clear that their return would greatly enrich the world if it were to become permanent. You see, even when you remove my undeniable bias as a long-time fan, no other act from the past two decades does pop quite like Girls Aloud.

It took me just 30 seconds into my first listen of Sound of the Underground many years ago to realise that this was a group destined to make a significant impact, and they're still doing so today. Some 11 years after their last nationwide arena tour, the girls are back. But this doesn't feel like one of those half-hearted "we might as well" reunions; this is a comeback tour that means business.

From the almost mystical opening of the often overlooked single Untouchable - the track that sadly ended their record-breaking run of top 10s - it feels as though Girls Aloud have never left. The Show tour may not have the iconic, unbeatable opening that the Tangled Up concerts had back in 2008, but with each of the four ladies rightfully placed on the pedestal, their gowns swirling around them, it has a rather understated opening that nonetheless loudly proclaims "we're back, did you miss us? ", reports Chronicle Live.

Any Girls Aloud fan or even a casual music enthusiast knows the band has a plethora of fantastic songs in their repertoire, and the setlist includes them all. Forget about "this is an unreleased track from 2004" or "we've written some new material", The Show setlist is purely top-notch, with no filler, making the concert everything you'd want from a Girls Aloud comeback.

As soon as the girls rise from the arena for Untouchable, they dive into the sassy and strut-worthy The Show, and from that point on, it's pop perfection. Love Machine, which to me is the musical equivalent of jeans and a nice top or a bottle of white zinfandel, is, as expected, a real crowd-pleaser, as is Biology, a song that sounds like three different ones combined into one, but works incredibly well.

Homecoming queens Cheryl, Nadine, Nicole and Kimberley pledged to dedicate the tour to their late bandmate Sarah Harding. And while, yes, it does feel like there's a piece missing with Sarah's cheeky confidence and infectious energy not present on stage, the ways they honour her throughout the concert are not only beautifully executed, but also feel genuine and incredibly poignant.

The Whole Lotta History video montage, featuring clips of Sarah as she soulfully sings the song's lyrics, is incredibly moving. Her re-recorded vocals for a revamped version of I'll Stand By You sound fantastic. The reactions of her bandmates to various moments are genuinely touching, mirrored by the packed Newcastle crowd who took the time to absorb everything and pay their own tributes to the larger than life star who was taken too soon.

Girls Aloud's partnership with their producers and writers Xenomania made them a formidable force, producing a string of punchy pop hits. Tracks like Wake Me Up, which sees the girls traverse the arena on suspended motorbikes, Long Hot Summer and Something New are all included.

Whoever's idea it was to include Girl Overboard, Graffiti my Soul and On The Metro in the setlist deserves high praise. Nadine's vocals were as stunning as ever, Nicola was effortlessly cool and striking, and Kimberley was a class act.

However, the opening night on Tyneside was always going to belong to one person. The Queen was back in her castle and Cheryl, when not overcome with emotion, gave it her all, showcasing her star power with en pointe dance moves. The reaction from her home crowd is sure to be something she'll remember for a long time.

The atmosphere inside the venue on Friday was electric. Girls Aloud have been unfairly dismissed as 'pop by numbers' by critics in the past. But whatever numbers they're playing with, they've added value.

Even after an 11-year absence, they are still an act that stands head and shoulders above many of their peers. The night ended with The Promise, featuring Sarah singing her iconic 'walking primrose' line. To quote Cheryl when Girls Aloud FINALLY won a Brit in 2009, it was the 'cherry on the cake' on a night when the Geordie icon and her bandmates showed us all how to put on a show.

The Queens of Pop are back, and their crowns are firmly intact.