As I took a breath from looking at Cheryl and looked around to admire the atmosphere of the O2 Arena, I caught the eye of my friend Liam, sat a few rows in front of me. He was making gestures, and I could read his lips, but I could not hear him. “Girls Aloud are over there, up there” he was saying, signalling to one of the VIP boxes on the right side of the O2 Arena. I gave him thumbs up and turned to my friends, all big Girls Aloud fans, and passed the message on. We all stopped paying attention to the gig for a moment and tried to find them, yet all we could see was a woman jumping and dancing – which we would discover later that, to our delight (and surprise) was band mate Nadine Coyle.
But Girls Aloud were not the only special guests at the Cheryl gig in London. The show held surprise appearances from Will.I.Am, who sang from the distance to a Cheryl who had moved to the middle of the arena; and Wretch32, whose contribution was –quite literally – blink and miss it. Cheryl pay homage to the finest moments of her career with a Girls Aloud medley that included ‘The Promise’, ‘Biology’ and ‘Love Machine’, a segment that sent the entire arena into a screaming frenzy. ‘A Million Lights’, however, felt nothing like a Girls Aloud tour.
Cheryl’s strongest point is dancing, and choreography is the element in which this show is built on. Songs like the opener, ‘Sexy Den A Mutha’ – which is rumoured to be Cheryl’s fourth single -, ‘Girl In The Mirror’, which had the best screen visuals of the night; and her most popular singles ‘Call My Name’, ‘Promise This’ and ‘Fight For This Love’ showcased Cheryl’s dancing ability and some of her most iconic moves. The surprise of the night was the performance of ‘Guetto Baby’: the Lana Del Rey penned track that became Cheryl’s particular ‘Slave 4 U’ moment and displayed some of the sexiest, most intense choreography she has ever done.
There were only two ballads on the set-list: ‘The Flood’ and ‘A Million Lights’, the song that gave name to the album and the tour. This was one of the best performances in terms of vocals and visual impact, as the venue was lit with thousands of lights that the fans provided with their phones. ‘The Flood’ fell a little flat, as Cheryl relied heavily on backing vocals during the choruses. And if that was the flattest point of the night, the highlight was the encore. Cheryl and her army of dancers marched along the catwalk and danced the prelude to her biggest hit ‘Fight For This Love’, which was immediately followed by a reprise of ‘Call My Name’ before leaving the stage with a jump and a bang.
There is always a ‘but’, and ‘A Million Lights’ had a few. The stage setting was very cool, but the screens were for the most part limited to showing clips of Cheryl’s music videos (sometimes plain still pictures) instead of being used as a dynamic part of the performance. The built of the screens was quite spectacular, which is why it was a bit confusing how they were not used better. She only performed the singles from her two first and most popular albums, leaving songs like ‘Rain On Me’ and ‘Stand Up’ out of the set list, and the majority of the tracks from her second album have never been performed live. However, the biggest issue was that Cheryl’s interaction with the public was kept to a minimum, which made the show seem quite impersonal. The only pauses between tracks were rehearsed and to introduce the next track, which made the show go by really quickly. And shows always go by quickly when you’re enjoying them, but in this case it felt a bit incomplete, as if it could have lasted at least another half an hour and it wouldn’t have been too much. It seems that she relaxed a bit more in later dates and interacted more (but sadly, I wasn’t there to see it).
Overall, it was an enjoyable gig provided by a woman aware of where her strength lay and who was able to showcase her abilities. And though her usual charisma seemed to be missing, one can only hope it’ll be back in time for the Girls Aloud comeback tour, which is expected to happen in 2013.
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