A Spice Girls concert has about as much spontaneity as a space shuttle launch, and the shrills from the teen and preteen crowd inside the Forum in Los Angeles on Saturday would likely have effectively competed with the roar of the shuttle’s rocket engines.
It was also clear that Girl Power harnessed a different sort of energy. The two-hour, sold-out show did not attract the typical concert-going audience: on ballads, the requisite Bic lighters held aloft to signal solidarity were replaced with green glow wands piercing the darkness. And while it’s not unusual to see females in the men’s restrooms during certain concerts, they aren’t usually accompanied by their dads.
But for all the concert’s shortcomings — which were legion — it was nonetheless a spectacle of epic proportions, with a huge stage set and the music complemented by precision lighting capable of illuminating an offshore dictatorship.
And the perf’s everything-on-the-downbeat stage movements were met with unbridled enthusiasm from the fans, many of whom (including some of the adults) likely graduated from Raffi performances and were attending their first big-time concert.
The show also offered the glitz and schlock of Vegas. A troupe of male dancers filling the space while the Girls embarked on one of their numerous costume changes and over-the-top hand gestures by the quartet were as important as staying in time with the music. Somewhere Reba McEntire and Stevie Nicks must have been grinning.
Helping keep the pace lively were huge screens, flanking and in back of the action, offering music videos — some still featuring Ginger Spice (Geri Halliwell), who ankled the group in June — that were designed to keep the short-attention-span set enthralled during lulls in the onstage action.
From the opening video sequence resembling the departing spacecraft at the beginning of “Star Trek,” complete with William Shatner changing the classic dialogue and intoning “where no woman has gone before,” the Girls capered and strutted like supermodels on Paris runways as they tapped the tracks from their pair of Virgin Records discs, “Spice” and “SpiceWorld.”
The set opening “If U Can’t Dance,” off the 1996 “Spice” album, was catchy enough with its huge vocals and blistering light show, and the Girls worked hard to sell it in order to set the pace for the rest of the evening.
Apparently too hard. Two songs later, the quartet bailed for a several-minute costume change and 30 minutes after that took a 30-minute intermission.
This would seemingly be the evening’s m.o.: Shut the perf down and go to the dancers or a costume change just as things heated up.
Ballads such as “Too Much” could have been set standouts but were instead swallowed up in the noise rebounding throughout the cavernous venue. “Move Over” read more like a Bob Fossie-ized version of the “Generation Next” Pepsi commercial that inspired it.
The Girls’ voices remained strong throughout — with Sporty and Scary packing the most vocal punch, even if some choruses occasionally seemed enhanced by recorded backing tracks — and the six-man band was tight.
But tracks like the Girls’ first big single, “Wannabe,” and the lead-off track, “Spice Up Your Life,” from their sophomore disc came late in the proceedings and were undoubtedly designed to spark a second wind in the crowd.
By then, many of the standers had become sitters — no doubt exhausted by the rapid-fire delivery of the material, causing sensory overload — with some fans retreating to their parents’ laps for comfort.