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Concert brings childhood nostalgia back to fans

Cassie Belek | Monday, February 18, 2008

On Friday night my fifth grade dreams came true at the Spice Girls concert in Chicago. When I found out that my favorite girl group of the 90s was reuniting for a world tour, I was desperate to get tickets. I missed the boat the first time around and I wasn’t going to let it happen again.

Judging from the sold-out concert, I wasn’t the only one who refused to let this opportunity pass by. I have an odd feeling that this is the last and only Spice Girls reunion tour we’re going to see. For some reason I can’t picture Scary, Sporty, Ginger, Posh and Baby wailing “Wannabe” and rocking about “girl power” at ages 45 or 50.

The crowd was overwhelmingly lacking children and boys. Ten years ago, the United Center would have been packed with junior high girls wearing platform shoes and glitter. All those tweens were now grown up and buying beer at the concession stands. (Interesting side note: A 20-year-old offered me $20 to buy her an $8 beer before the concert began. I refused not only because I didn’t feel like breaking the law that night, but more importantly, I wanted to teach her a lesson not to buy $8 beers).

But let’s not forget to mention the merchandise frenzy. People were dropping $50 for concert T-shirts like it was nobody’s business. I ended up with an adorable mug, a program and a poster I was suckered into buying after the concert was over (it was only $10). I wonder how many of those people buying T-shirts are actually going to wear them in public. As proud as I am to be a Spice Girls fan, I don’t think I would ever dare to go that far to show my support.

The concert started about 30 minutes late, but that’s to be expected. The anticipation was almost too much for me: I had been waiting 11 years to see my girls on stage and I was getting a little emotional and was scaring my friend. Judging by my reaction to when the Spice Girls finally appeared, there’s no way that I’ll ever be able to go to a Mariah Carey concert and come out completely healthy.

The girls started with “Spice Up Your Life” and followed that with “Stop.” It was comforting being in an arena full of people who knew as many of the words to the songs as I did. We were sitting in the 300 level, which gave us a bird’s eye view of the stage and the opportunity to look out over the entire crowd and see how much fun everyone was having. Some people were more into it than others, especially two guys sitting near us who wore home-made Spice Girls T-shirts and Union Jack bandanas.

The show was spectacle. There was singing, dancing, glitter and Roberto Cavalli-designed costumes. The Spice Girls know how to put on a lively performance, but they also knew how to go slow. During “Mama,” they brought their children on stage and sang to them and the crowd with photos of their mothers in a slideshow in the background. It was a tender moment, but I was more concerned with the fact that I just saw Eddie Murphy’s baby and the Beckham boys.

I appreciated that they never tried to gloss over a pivotal part of their history: Ginger’s early departure from the group. At the end of “Viva Forever,” Ginger (who even dawned her Union Jack sparkling leotard at one point in the evening), descended through a trap door, leaving Scary, Sporty, Posh and Baby – the four who worked on a third album together – to perform “Make You Holler,” a single from that album.

Ginger (Geri Halliwell) wasn’t gone for long, though. She emerged solo in the next number to sing her remake of “It’s Raining Men” from her second solo album, which appeared on the “Bridget Jones’s Diary” soundtrack. Sporty (Mel C) came out next and performed two of her solo hits before the five Spice Girls reunited on the stage once again. The Spice Girls were smart to recognize their solo careers and to not ignore their, at times, tumultuous history.

Of course the song everyone was waiting to hear – “Wannabe” – did not come until the encore, but once it did come, I was completely taken back to my childhood. I found myself thinking of all the times I had listened to that first CD as a child. I remembered getting the CD for my birthday to go with my new boom box. I remembered sitting in my room and listening to the songs over and over again so I could learn the lyrics. I remembered taking part in that Spice Girls-bashing phase, but then I remembered finally embracing my love and fandom for them. Admitting that I was a fan finally led me to their concert Friday.

I proved my girl power, fulfilled a dream and sang my heart out like a fifth grader.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Cassie Belek at cbelek@nd.edu