Monkee Shines

Right, right -- like the 10-year-olds cared, or even had anything to judge it against. For them, the show was smartly structured as a "starter concert" -- they'll learn about getting thrown up on at hole-in-the-wall rock clubs soon enough. So there were no sudden moves or loud noises, and pity the poor little boy who was pulled onstage by Baby as she sang the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go," for a brief moment the most embarrassed human being in the world. ("This one's for all my babies in the audience!") Spice World the Tour is, in truth, a television show, complete with ads on the video screens during the half-hour intermission, pushing things like lipstick and blackhead-removing strapping tape. The concert even has some semblance of a plot. The Spice Girls have this spaceship ("Spice, the final frontier," said the voice over the opening video -- actually William Shatner's, as the end credits noted), which occasionally lands to unleash the Spice Girls to the masses along with an unmoving backup band and cache of buff male dancers.

They produce sets to play-act in; in the cafe scenery of their R-E-S-P-E-C-T-demanding pop ditty "Denying," Scary likes to play cards with the boys, but Posh is a more enigmatic, flirty sort. Then after finishing with their final proclamation of Girl Power and positivity, a cover of Sister Sledge's "We Are Family," a disembodied voice informs the Girls that it's time to go. Doors open, and they act as if they're being pulled by an invisible force but are trying hard to resist; do they not want to leave, or is there something bad going on inside the ship? Perhaps the catering's no good? The buff dancing boys a little too pushy? Maybe an angry Ginger has snuck inside and wants a word with them? No matter: The girls are sucked in and the spaceship's off again. Roll credits (the Spice Girls have six caterers, according to the video screen).

Oddly, all of this was watched by many of the 10-year-olds with a sort of detachment. The Spice Girls' forays into synth-soul, disco-funk, and Latin pop are beaty enough, but few of the youths in the audience were dancing much, though they filled the between-song silences with solid screeching. Mostly they watched the show in the same way everybody watches television: eyes slightly glazed and rigid, mouth slightly open, patient and passive, attentive to the Spice Girls' movements but not particularly engaged with them. The video images on the screen are a constant glow of flash and color, featuring clips of Spice Girls videos. Charitably enough, Ginger's actually still in some of them. Why? Well, kids, it's because friendship never ends. That heart-to-heart chat about how expensive it is to re-edit video footage in the middle of a tour, that discussion about how pop stars like Ginger often ditch the band they got famous with to focus on synergistic avenues of cross-marketing promotion -- it can wait.

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