"So how do you like rock concerts?" the 30-something mom asked her maybe-8-year-old daughter. "Awesome!" chirped the girl, straightening the folds of her Spice World Tour T-shirt.
It was intermission time at the Spice Girls' Chicago-area concert, held July 27 at the New World Music Theatre in Tinley Park, Ill. Every square foot of the outdoor venue was slathered with grade-school girls and their mothers; a few dads and brothers were also in attendance, along with knots of old-enough-to-drive-themselves teens.
Mostly, though, it was the itty bitty Spicettes, the Brittanys and Tiffanys and all their friends, screaming their tender larynxes out for their four heroines. Girl power or peer pressure? Little of both, most likely. In any case, the rabid Spice lovers got what they wanted from Baby, Posh, Sporty and Scary.
More Vegas-style revue than rock show (no surprise there), the Spice Girls' concert was predictably lavish from a technical standpoint. The multilevel, sci-fi themed set used three video screens as backdrops, projecting live Spicy close-ups as well as pre-recorded montages. Instead of the customary videotape, though, the live feed was on film, which had the curious effect of making it look pre-recorded as well.
There were nearly a dozen costume changes, and during the brief intervals while the girls were doing their thing with wardrobe, out came a crew of dancing Spice Boys. Music was performed by a live band (augmented by tape, one figured), and the sound quality was as snazzy as money could buy. The girls looked fabulous, of course, and sounded fine, in particular Sporty (the most emotive of the four) and Scary. The recently departed Ginger (whose face still adorned videos and concert gear) did not appear to be missed. The Spice Girls performed just about all theirbest-known tunes -- "Wannabe," "If You Can't Dance," "Colours of the World" -- songs that anyone with a preteen girl in the house can sing in their sleep.
One number, though, showed questionable judgment, considering that the average age of attendees was maybe 10. Declaring Chicago a hot town, the Spices announced they wanted to take off their clothes -- to beat the heat, they said. Out came some opaque screens, courtesy of the Spice Boys, and when they were removed, there were the apparently unclothed Baby, Posh, Sporty, and Scary straddling chairs in reverse, torsos coyly (and barely) hidden behind the chair backs, singing "Naked." The relative silence that fell on the crowd during this little exhibition indicated that more than a few of the thousands of grade-schoolers in attendance, not to mention their parents, didn't quite know what to make of it. On the other end of the spectrum was their tribute to motherhood, "Mama," during which home movies of the Spices as wee things were shown (oddly enough, no footage of their mums).
Really, what can you say about a Spice Girls concert? It was what it was, nothing more and nothing less. If you went there with your daughter, it was worth it to see her delighted face, though you knew she was drinking in bland commercial pop put out by Barbie-doll singers. Still, there are female rockers with true girl power -- Liz Phair, Luscious Jackson, Elastica -- and it's not unreasonable to think that at least some of the Spice-crazed daughters will, in time, gravitate toward the real thing.