Wednesday night at the Staples Centers saw throngs of teenage girls jamming the streets, their mothers trailing them cautiously, preparing to dole out for overpriced concert paraphernalia.The scene was familiar, but the context was surprising, considering that the band they’d chosen to see peaked in popularity almost a decade ago. Somehow, the Spice Girls have successfully retained the tween demographic that made them so popular in the mid to late ’90s, and their ability to stay relevant with the current generation has invigorated their 2007 reunion tour.
The group is still cranking out their girl-power anthems with the aid of an elaborate stage show, but this time around, they’re accompanied by a solid backing band that adds plenty of rhythmic depth to even the most sterile tracks. The first part of the show crescendoed rapidly with spirited renditions of “Spice Up Your Life” and “Say You’ll Be There.” Geri Halliwell, whose departure from the group in 1998 helped to accelerate the band’s dissolution, made her presence felt early on by displaying a series of provocative dance moves and pseudo-erotic poses. Her ability to walk the tightrope between kitsch and overt sexuality set the tone for the performance, which contained plenty of innuendo without offending.
High point of the evening came on “2 Become 1,” with the Spice Girls delivering an excellent set of harmonies to match the epic sweep of the chorus. Frustratingly, the concert lost its focus during the second half, which consisted mainly of solo performances and lesser-known hits. Dubious highlights included Victoria Beckham’s “Zoolander”-esque runway walk, a backup dancer doing the Macarena and four of the Spice Girls walking their male dancers on rhinestone studded dog leashes.
Aside from the emasculatory treatment of the dancers, most of the evening’s offences were easily forgivable, especially since the Spice Girls have an arsenal of effortlessly joyful songs like “Wannabe” to act as palate cleansers after their more awkward moments onstage.
The Girls’ East Coast swing includes shows Feb. 13 at Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., and Feb. 18 at Madison Square Garden.