If you cast your mind back to the late 90s/early 00s, only a small number of bands dominated mainstream British culture. The likes of Steps (speaking of whom, H is in the audience tonight), Westlife, Boyzone, and… S Club 7. A band so massive they spawned four TV series, two specials, a spin-off Juniors band, and a LOT of platinum-selling singles.
Of course, they are no longer 7 – the tragic death of Paul Cattermole earlier this year, and the subsequent departure of Hannah Spearritt, mean they number five for this reunion tour, tonight in the Utilita Cardiff Arena. In an all-seated arena, this really does feel like a trip back to the 90s: the quintet appear to the sounds of S Club Party and the throwback begins as Jo, Rachel, Tina, Jon, and Bradley remind us all that – allegedly – there really is no party like an S Club party.
The likes of You’re My Number One, Sunshine, and Bring The House Down proliferate the first half of the set, before the second half brings the hits. It should be noted that the five all appear to be singing live – rather than the miming which could be expected of stereotypical pop acts from their era – and it’s a delight as all still have the pipes which made them famous.
After the uber-banger that is Don’t Stop Movin’, there’s a video tribute to Paul for the song Good Times, full of archive footage and his isolated vocals, and there’s also the first good ol’ costume change of the night. Rachel leads the tribute, asking the room to “raise the roof one last time for Paul,” before thanking the fans for all the support they’ve received since his passing and introducing a certain song with, “let’s Bring It All Back for Paul now!”
The likes of Two In A Million and Have You Ever are comfortably received with a little bit of new music in the form of These Are The Days (again dedicated to Paul), before the ultra-super-banger Reach closes the main set. The band then reappear for the encore with another costume change for Never Had A Dream Come True and a reprise of S Club Party.
Truly, a reminder that there is always room for a bit of pop silliness in our ever-increasingly serious world and that there’s no false advertising: there really is no party like an S Club party.
S Club, Utilita Arena Cardiff, Mon 23 Oct
words JOSHUA WILLIAMS photos OWIN WONG