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Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, Sun 10 Dec

Ah, the power of pop. Last Sunday I, along with thousands of other middle-aged women, gay men and children (I’m sure there were others in attendance too, but it felt like an exclusive party for all of the above), was transported back to the heady days of the late ‘90s/early noughties. For me, it was to my late teens, when I’d just moved from Britain’s smallest city in St. Davids to Europe’s youngest capital Cardiff, in my personal Summer of Love where anything felt possible.

Stepping into the Motorpoint Arena wasn’t the biggest leap for the imagination to return to Cardiff in the late ‘90s—let’s face it, the place hasn’t changed one bit. When will we get an arena befitting of our city? Perhaps better to leave that particular debate for another day, better the devil you know and all that.

People talk about the Welsh music scene in the 1990s and the Cool Cymru set etc. but there was one band, with two Welsh members, that drew this writer’s attention above all others during that time: Ian ‘H’ Watkins and Lisa Scott-Lee in Steps. This will prompt a guffaw or four from the musos out there I’m sure but, quite frankly, that’s the last thing on my mind.

If ever there was a soundtrack to sum up the youth of gay men during that period, it was that of this Steptacular group. They literally line danced me and so many others out of the closet; the memories that conjured up during this, their latest arena tour, left me and a second sell-out audience in Cardiff in as many weeks feeling that same elation we shared all those many years ago.

The ‘warm-up’ act was the Vengaboys, and when that particular bus arrived to get the party started there was a danger that the place would boil over before the main act even made it to the stage. The reception they received felt like they were the main attraction—for some they most likely were.

We were left in no doubt who the real stars of this show were, however, when the faces of the famous five: Claire, Faye, H, Lee and Lisa flashed up on the massive screens either side of the stage at the outset of the main event. And boy they didn’t disappoint.

Opening with their most recent hit Scared of the Dark, a somewhat obvious choice with the entire arena plunged into darkness, they gave fans new and old the perfect start to the evening. For me, it wasn’t until the classics played that the night truly took off. The bright lights, glitter, falling confetti, huge set pieces and big supporting cast romped and stomped their way through hit after hit, much to the delight of the crowd. One for Sorrow, with two fingered face-sweep; 5,6,7,8 complete with camp cowboy hands on thrusting hips; A Deeper Shade of Blue (a personal highlight), with H solo, wavey arms across chest followed by boxey-face voguing.

The only word to sum it all up is joy. There aren’t many bands who can get children and old geezers like me up and dancing to the same tunes, but in these polarising times, something that’ll stay with the audience (at least until the next time they tour), is the ecstatic way Steps made us feel.


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