Live Review: S Club – AO Arena, Manchester 12/10/23

Following the announcement of their 25th anniversary reunion tour back in February earlier this year, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind for S Club 7. Originally announcing an 11-date arena tour, swiftly followed by the addition of extra dates due to demand, the band were riding high. But with the sudden death of Paul Cattermole a mere two months after the tour announcement before Hannah Spearritt then also pulled out amid rumours of feeling pushed out, there was concern around if the tour would even go ahead. However, the remaining 5 members, Jo O’Meara, Bradley McIntosh, Rachel Stevens, Tina Barrett and Jon Lee persevered and wanted to pay homage not just to the fans but in memory of Paul, renaming the tour ‘The Good Times Tour’ in reference to this being the track Paul sings during the show alongside rebranding themselves as S Club.

The support act for the tour is Now United, an international pop group formed by S Club creator Simon Fuller, but with some last minute travel issues the band have had to pull out of the first few dates and have been replaced at short notice by Sweet Love, a 4-piece British girl band. These girls (Honey, Jasmine, Maya and Venice) were only formed back in April so stepping in as an arena support at such short notice is a tall order. However, the girls put in a good effort and whilst their set is made up of mostly covers, they do offer some excellent harmonies and dance routines, ensuring the crowd have the opportunity to get their singing voices tuned up ready for the main act.

Opening with S Club Party, S Club officially launch the party! Bright, colourful costumes and stage drop combined with the old school dance routines, give the crowd a party vibe taking people right back to the 90s. With a back catalogue of 11 Top ten singles in their heyday, it’s no surprise just how many well-known tracks they have their in arsenal. From party disco tracks ‘You’re My Number One’, ‘Reach’ and ‘Don’t Stop Movin’ to the more emotive ones ‘Never Had A Dream Come True’ and ‘Two In A Million’.

Following the sudden death of Paul a mere 6 months before this tour started there was always going to be some sense of sadness, which seems completely at odds to the bubble gum pop party that S Club generally offer. However, they manage to pay homage to Paul in a genuine way that means he feels wholly included in the tour without it becoming too oppressive – from the British Heart Foundation collection boxes (Paul’s death was related to an underlying heart condition), to the poignant moment during Good Times where Bradley is noticeably choked as a montage of Paul features on the visuals.

There are undoubtedly some moments where it’s clear the backing tracks are helping out, but such is the nature of the type of music S Club offer, it doesn’t make much of a difference since the crowd singalong Karaoke-style throughout, joining in the dance moves where they can and generally just enjoying a trip back to the 90s pop nostalgia that the night offers. The Manchester date is the first run of the tour and is billed as a ‘preview’ show, with tickets available for the rest of tour here.

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