“Do you really want to be a pop singer? You know it’s a really tough life: early mornings, late nights and lots of bullsh*t?” “Yes,” answered a clearly nervous Cheryl Tweedy to Louis Walsh on her first audition for Popstars: The Rivals. Given that was ten years ago, you would have to wonder what portion of the mostly-teenage audience are even old enough to remember it. In the past ten years Cheryl (now seemingly without a surname) has shown us that her word is good, as she has backed it up with action. She is not just the pop singer Louis asked her about, but the ‘popstar’ the show promised. This is in evidence on Thursday night on The O2 stage.
The stage, which dwarfed The Original Rudeboys who were there to support her, is hers from the moment she emerges from the top of the large on-stage pyramid and starts with the strangely titled ‘Sexy Den a Mutha’. She rattles through her set most professionally; hitting every mark, nailing every dance move and singing every note perfectly (assuming that she is, in fact, singing every note heard here). She doesn’t even need a scrawled set-list taped to the floor to help her remember what’s coming next in the show.
It is a show in every sense of the world. It’s full of lights, dancing – Cheryl is supported by a handful of people in this regard – costume changes and a sprinkling of pyrotechnics. For Three Words, Cheryl, from her position on a small stage in the middle of the standing room, sings a duet with giant projection of Will.I.Am, much to the enjoyment of the crowd’s younger members. It’s a show of few surprises, save a medley of Girls Aloud songs early in the set, a point at which I may have gotten a little over excited. A few hearts – my own anyway – may have beaten faster when the riff from Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir is played but it turns out to be just a musical interlude while Cheryl is performing one of her four costume changes.
The curse-laden Screw You is perhaps a strange song to play given the large number of families and young people and it signals the fiery (literally) end to the main part of the show. She’s back before too long to play Fight for this Love – the first song to get all the seated attendees on their feet – and, unusually, reprise Call My Name before finally exiting via a jump through a hole in the stage.
Cheryl’s is a pop show that’s like an action movie: if you turn off your brain, don’t question what you’re seeing and go with the flow, you will have a good time… and there’s a few explosions. It all makes for an enjoyable night; just don’t try to analyse it too much.