Girls Aloud give Newcastle gift wrapped pop perfection as Cheryl shines on home turf

For the last few years it has felt like there’s been something really missing from the British music industry and, ladies and gentlemen, that thing was Girls Aloud. And on the basis of Friday night’s first of three consecutive gigs in Newcastle, the world would be a much better place if their comeback was a permanent one.

You see, taking the undeniable bias of me being a long standing fan out of the equation, no other act of the last two decades does pop quite like Girls Aloud. It took just 30 seconds of my first listen to Sound of the Underground all those years ago to realise that this was a group who were here to make serious waves and they’re still making them now.

Some 11 years after their last nationwide arena tour, the girls are back, but these doesn’t feel like one of those “we might as well” half baked reunions, this is a comeback tour that means business.

READ MORE: Girls Aloud support acts for Newcastle as The Show tour set for Utilita Arena

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From the almost ethereal opening of often overlooked single Untouchable - the track that criminally ended their record breaking run of top 10s - it’s like Girls Aloud have never been away. The Show tour may not have that iconic, never to be beaten opening that the Tangled Up concerts had back in 2008, but with each of the four ladies up on the pedestal they so rightly belong on, with their gowns floating around them, it has an rather understated opening that still screams “we’re back, have you missed us?”

Any Girls Aloud devotee or even a casual music fan knows the group have got so many stellar songs in their back catalogue and the setlist has them all. Never mind all this “this is an unreleased track from 2004” or “we’ve written some new material” malarkey, The Show setlist is very much all killer, no filler and the concert is everything you'd want from a Girls Aloud comeback.

No sooner have the girls ascended from arena heaven for Untouchable than they launch into the sassy and strut worthy The Show and, from then on in, its pop perfection all the way. Love Machine, which for me is the music 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 meshed into one, but works so, so well.

Girls Aloud in Newcastle
Girls Aloud in Newcastle -Credit:Christine Russell

Homecoming queen Cheryl, Nadine, Nicole and Kimberley promised to make the tour a tribute to late bandmate Sarah Harding. And while, yes of course, it does feel like there’s a piece of the puzzle missing with Sarah’s cheeky confidence and infectious energy not there on stage with them, the ways they honour her throughout the concert are, not only beautifully done, but feel genuine and incredibly poignant.

The Whole Lotta History video montage, which features clips of Sarah as she wistfully sings the song's lyrics, is very, very moving and, her re-recorded vocals to a reworked version of I’ll Stand By You sound fantastic. The ways in which her bandmates react to the various moments are really touching, something echoed by the way that the packed Newcastle crowd also took the time to take everything in and pay their own tributes to the larger than life star who was gone far too soon.

The double act Girls Aloud had with their producers and writers Xenomania made them a force to be reckoned with, with their collaborations like a production line of punchy pop gems. The likes of Wake Me Up, which sees the girls travel across the arena on motorbikes suspended in the air, Long Hot Summer and Something New are all present and correct and, whoever idea it was to have Girl Overboard, Graffiti my Soul and On The Metro in the set is truly doing the Lord’s work.

Girls Aloud in Newcastle
Girls Aloud in Newcastle

Nadine is as vocally stunning as ever, Nicola is effortlessly cool and striking and Kimberley is a total class act; but, let's be honest, opening night on Tyneside was only going to belong to one person. The Queen was back in her Castle and, without question, when she wasn't overcome with emotion, Cheryl was giving it her absolute all, with always en pointe dance moves and that star power that has served her so well. And the reaction from her home crowd is sure to be something that will stay with her for a long, long time. The atmosphere inside the venue on Friday was nothing short of electric.

Girls Aloud have been, quite wrongly, written off as 'pop by numbers' by critics in the past, well what ever numbers they're playing with they have added value as, even with an 11 year absence, they are an act who are still head and shoulders above so many of their peers.

The night ending with The Promise, featuring Sarah singing her iconic 'walking primrose ' line was, to quote Cheryl when Girls Aloud FINALLY won a Brit in 2009, the 'cherry on the cake' on a night when the Geordie icon and her bandmates schooled us all in how to put on a show.

The Queens of Pop are back with their crowns firmly intact.