Sugababes review – original line-up is back – and better than ever

The original Sugababes always seemed like the coolest girls in school showing off in the playground, and their emotional O2 homecoming retained this happy, scrappy air for an audience of thousands. It was a stunning reminder of the chemistry between Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhán Donaghy and the way their voices meld perfectly into each other’s – and a stunning reminder of the sheer breadth of the band’s bangers.

The Sugababes have had a tumultuous time of it. Aside from the snide misogyny they faced in the press as famous young women in the early ’00s, Donaghy left the group in 2001. A rotating cast of members took over before eventually none of the original members remained. In 2012, they reunited as MKS but faced a long legal battle to regain the Sugababes name, which they finally did in 2019. This one-off show was presented as a thank you to the fans who have stuck by them throughout, culminating in an emotional and celebratory arrangement of About You Now as confetti rained down.

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Inspired by their recent Boiler Room set, the ’babes cultivated an imperfect and intimate feel. Clever lighting reduced the big stage down to a darkened club basement, and their cover of Sweet Female Attitude’s UK garage classic Flowers from a tiny B-stage at the back of the arena surrounded by twisting, turning bodies was a sweaty, euphoric moment.

It took them a few songs to loosen up, though their low-effort choreography delivered with an air of unbothered insouciance was a staple of the night (and deeply relatable). The 2013 MKS track Flatline was a highlight of the show, the harmony at the apex of the bridge so genuinely brilliant and so vindicating for this group of women that even your reviewer found herself a bit teary.

The Sugababes in 2001.
Sugababes (L-R) Keisha Buchanan, Siobhán Donaghy, Mutya Buena in 2001. Photograph: Dave Hogan/Getty Images

As they danced in time with a video projection of their younger selves – mere girls of 15 – during One Touch, there was a sense that this was more than just a trudge around the nostalgia circuit: it was the mark of a return, a coming into their own as grown women. The Sugababes are officially back and they are better than ever.