I went to the Girls Aloud reunion concert and had The Show of a lifetime

Girls Aloud - Kimberley Walsh, Nadine Coyle, Nicola Roberts and Cheryl onstage at The Girls Aloud show
The Girls Aloud show (Tom Dymond/Shutterstock)

Twenty-two years ago, I spent my Saturday nights glued to Popstars: The Rivals, rooting for the girls in what promised to be the ultimate girl band versus boy band chart battle. After weeks of whittling down the contestants, five lucky girls were chosen for the girl band: Cheryl Tweedy, Nicola Roberts, Nadine Coyle, Sarah Harding and Kimberley Walsh. Their name? Girls Aloud. The boy band? Never heard of again. Girl power hadn't been this compelling since the Spice Girls – and I was obsessed.

Flash forward to 2024 and the band is back together, performing a sold-out reunion tour with 30 dates across Ireland and the United Kingdom, including five nights at London's O2 Arena. After Sarah tragically lost her fight with breast cancer in 2021, aged just 39, I wasn't sure where this left the group. But Girls Aloud proved their charisma, stage presence and certified pop bangers still hold up as a foursome.

Girls Aloud open concert with Untouchable
The Girls Aloud Show put girl power back on the map (Tom Dymond/Shutterstock)

Here's everything you need to know if you're hitting up The Girls Aloud Show... Spoiler: I am still obsessed.

Pop perfection

More Girls Aloud

The band holds the Guinness World Record for having 20 consecutive UK Top 10 singles, so there naturally wasn't a dud song on the setlist. From the debut single that made them a household name, Sound of the Underground, to their Ten reunion material (including my favourite toe-tapper, Something New), Girls Aloud proved they've got the music catalogue to sell out an arena tour.

The Girls Aloud Show - Cheryl, Nadine Coyle, Kimberley Walsh and Nicola Roberts
Nadine Coyle, Kimberley Walsh, Nadine Coyle, Nicola Roberts, and Cheryl are performing five nights at London's O2 Arena (James Veysey/Shutterstock)

The group was always ahead of its time, with songs breaking classic pop conventions. Take fan favourite tune The Show as a case in point, which sounds like three songs rolled into one. This innovation is perhaps why their hits still stand up two decades on.

And they've certainly got the fanbase. As my friend put it, Girls Aloud are for the girls, the gays, and the largely millennial audience was living out their teenage dreams. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a more varied crowd than expected; gaggles of girls in their early twenties who knew every word, young children with their parents and retired couples wearing matching merch.

Nadine Coyle and Cheryl Cole holding hands on stage at London's O2 Arena
It was clear Sarah's absence had brought them closer (James Veysey/Shutterstock)

Tributes to Sarah Harding

I was apprehensive about how they would pay tribute to Sarah. A brief nod would have felt trite and tokenistic given that her absence loomed large over the night. However, the girls did her justice by weaving mentions of their late bandmate throughout the setlist.

Girls Aloud tribute to Sarah Harding during concert in London
The girls did late bandmate Sarah Harding justice by spotlighting her throughout the entire show (Tom Dymond/Shutterstock)

Sarah was repeatedly spotlighted during the show; the girls fell silent as her iconic solos played on the screens behind them, including during The Promise finale with her now bittersweet line, "Here I am, a walking primrose, wondering if I'll ever see you again".

As Nadine – her closest friend in the band – referenced "our gorgeous Sarah", her voice quivered, and my heart went out to the foursome, performing alongside a ghost night after night.

Girls Aloud performing The Promise with tribute to Sarah Harding
The Promise paid tribute to Sarah's iconic lyrics (Tom Dymond/Shutterstock)

Naturally, Whole Lotta History was dedicated entirely to Sarah. The girls left the stage as Sarah's outro played on a loop followed by a black and white video montage highlighting her vivacious personality, eliciting a respectful silence followed by piercing cheers from the crowd. Girls Aloud fans will know that Sarah was always the fun one, and the one who loved performing the most, so it was special to see that highlighted.

Following Sarah's death, Girls Aloud raised over £1 million for breast cancer research and their fundraising continues to this day. The singer's legacy is a groundbreaking breast cancer research project aiming to identify young women at increased risk of contracting the disease. The message on the night was loud and clear – Sarah might be gone but she will never be forgotten.

Girls Aloud performing Whole Lotta History during The Girls Aloud Show
Whole Lotta History was dedicated to Sarah (Tom Dymond/Shutterstock)

And with their renewed energy and electric onstage chemistry, it was clear Sarah's absence had brought them closer, cementing their bond as a band.

The verdict

The girls appeared awestruck by the London crowd's energy. Taking multiple breaks between songs to address the audience and thank them for their generous applause and support, I caught Nicola, Kimberley, Nadine and Cheryl repeatedly exchanging looks of disbelief. It was as though they couldn't quite believe people still cared, 11 years after their last comeback tour.

Girls Aloud - Cheryl, Nadine Coyle, Kimberley Walsh and Nicola Roberts - on flying motorkbikes during London concert
Wake Me Up was delivered while riding flying motorbikes (Tom Dymond/Shutterstock)

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But to me, it's a no-brainer. Girls Aloud proved they've still got the loyal support, catalogue of hits, and talent to make it in an ever-changing music industry, which desperately needs more girl groups and joyful pop escapism. If they were to release new music, I, for one, would be front row at The Show.

Nicola Roberts from Girls Aloud in concert at London's O2
The Girls Aloud show was perfectly orchestrated - and there were costume changes aplenty (James Veysey/Shutterstock)