Is there anything as glorious as watching a pop band at the peak of their powers? Please don't answer that because the answer is so obviously "no" that I'm ashamed you even had to think about it. As should from now on be an annual Easter tradition, the UK's greatest girlband (soz M.O), Little Mix, performed two sold-out shows at London's intimate O2 (one was a matinee, which certainly beats awkward family roasts for Easter entertainment). Three albums into a career that seemed unlikely when they were handed Damien Rice's 'Cannonball' back in 2011, they've hair-flipped their way into that magic upper echelon of pop that means you can legitimately disown people who pretend to not enjoy a single one of their songs.
While 2014's 'Salute' album and tour were obviously a few notches above average, it feels like the 'Get Weird' album — which, as has been trotted out a lot recently, outsold the last One Direction opus in the UK at least — has taken them to somewhere approaching girlband nirvana, ie Girls Aloud. It's also coincided with a slightly more 'risque' attitude 'vis-a-vis' clothing and singing about sexual intercourse, which also means there's a tricky balancing act to be attempted between the "hey kids, let me see those hands in the air" and "who wants to work out what A.D.I.D.A.S stands for?".
Basically, things have just got really interesting. To see exactly how interesting things are now, I selflessly left my loving family at home to join around 20,000 other Easter deniers in glorious pop purgatory. Here's what I learned:
The opening almost goes horribly wrong
Look, I've been to a lot of pop shows in my time, often involving some stunts that have made me fear for people's safety (Pink happily hanging off a spinning globe thing twenty feet in the air, for example), but I haven't gasped as hard as I did at the start of last night's 'gig'. Partly because it looked like they were about to spunk 'Black Magic' as the opening song, which obviously would have been ridiculous, but mainly because instead of shooting out of the stage and coming back down again, Perrie 'et al' leapt up out of some sort of book prop and looked for a moment like they were just going to keep going. In fact, they were suspended pretty high up in the air for just that bit too long for my liking, arms flailing, staring down at a stage that, in my mind, would soon feature four white chalk outlines. BUT THEY WERE FINE. More importantly, they didn't do 'Black Magic' first (spoiler alert: it was the last song).
I didn't get a very good picture of it but here's a video from when they did it in Cardiff:
Perrie is no longer the band's Nadine
Every band has a member who can nail the singing part but somehow the dancing bit doesn't quite click in the way it should. Take That have Gary Barlow, Girls Aloud had Nadine and One Direction had Harry, Niall, Zayn, Liam and Louis. For a long time, Perrie Edwards was Little Mix's leaden-footed two left feet merchant, but going by what happened last night the dancing shoes fit pretty well now thanks for asking. No longer does her face look like it's contorted with concentration when it comes to the most basic moves, and actually a lot of what goes on re choreography is a lot more than the usual hair-flipping and arm waggling that constitutes a pop show these days.
Jesy seems to want to put Perrie off whenever she can
There was a great bit during self-help standard 'Change Your Life', when Perrie — whose voice could strip paint, reapply a top coat and then strip it off again (in a good way) — was just about to launch into her big solo note bit and Jesy leans over and shouts "go on Pezza" like someone from EastEnders. Showcasing years of popstar training, Perrie flashes a little smile, a dash of side-eye and then launches into an effortlessly perfect note.
They're fans of Beyoncé deep cuts
I'm just going to say this now; Little Mix don't need to have a covers section in their tour anymore. Fine if you're on your debut album and really it's only the singles that are any good, but this is the tour for their third album and there's more than enough good stuff across those 45 songs or so to forget about other people's. BUT, having said that, when they launched into Beyoncé's 'Ring The Alarm' I wanted to interrupt the show and shake their hands. Okay, yes, they'd already knocked out a fairly perfunctory version of 'Crazy In Love', but there was something very Little Mix, ie throwing in a slight curveball, about the choice of 'Ring The Alarm'. Plus it then morphed into 'Where Are U Now' and no one can deny that sort of joy.
As ever, the 'narrative' goes out the window
Stories are good, aren't they? A nice beginning, a middle and then an end. That way we all know where we stand and things can develop in ways that make us feel safe and comfortable. In pop shows, that's not what I want really. I don't really care that the 'girls' are off to Club Weird in a taxi, which then gets lost in the woods and somehow that sort of relates to them learning some dance moves and then there's a thing with a book. Obviously I get that there need to be visual interludes while they're off getting changed or whatever, but to be honest no one would mind if they just popped MTV Hits on for a bit. Plus, it's difficult to find cohesion when the aforementioned self-empowerment anthem 'Change Your Life' is swiftly followed by sex jam 'A.D.I.D.A.S', complete with leopard print chairs that resemble those giant stiletto monstrosities you see in hairdressers.
Their idea of what is weird is fairly confusing
Obviously anyone who starts a sentence with "the dictionary definition of…" is a complete bellend but the dictionary definition of weird is "suggesting something supernatural; unearthly". For Little Mix, 'getting weird' is sporting an ugly coat ('Weird People'), making your dancers wear big rabbit heads, or as Jesy would have it, 'being yourself and dancing like no one is watching'. So actually their definition of weird — ie 'being yourself — is the opposite to its actual meaning. What they should have called the album was 'Get Real'. Just trying to help.
'DNA' is still ludicrously amazing
Honestly. What. A. Fucking. Song. Despite my griping earlier, this bit of the 'narrative' works pretty well. Basically, they're lost in some sort of wooded area and suddenly all the bright super hero leotards they were wearing before have turned black and feathery. It's sort of Marilyn Manson Top Shop gothic. At first it seems like they've messed with the song — which, and I've checked with the police, is an arrestable offence — but it soon morphs into the glorious behemoth we know and love, all stomping heartache and angelic interludes. There are also fire canon things and those don't get wasted on shit songs, do they? No, they do not.
As is this bit of 'Black Magic'
They need to stock up on their Little Mix lanyards
This is unacceptable really isn't it. Fine, there are flashing bunny ears in time for Easter, but what about all the people wanting a Little Mix lanyard? What will they do? You can't buy a nice tote bag or a mug or a t‑shirt to fill that void. They can't be worn on a bit of ribbon around your neck to make it seem like you've got backstage access. Mind you, you can probably get them online actually so not to worry too much.