Steps - The Ultimate Tour
The O2, London
*Plays One For Sorrow on repeat until dead*
A LOT of gays love Steps. Don't try and pretend they don't. You'll be fighting a losing battle. We've witnessed boys we'd never in a million years had down as Steps fanatics reveal, like secret porn stashes from beneath their mattresses, plastic envelopes full of moth-eaten random Steps stuff...including magazine cutouts of the girls from some late 90s FHM shoot or other (The boys in question were clearly a little confused at the time).
Any doubt that Steps are truly beloved...if not by you, then by one or ten of your peers...was put paid to last night at the guys' debut outing at London's O2 (back when Steps were big this blockbuster concert venue was of course just the shite old Millennium Dome, which puts into perspective just how much time has passed). The audience was comprised 50% of gay men. In fact, it might just be the most gays we've ever seen in one room before. Cue conveyor belt of stereotypes... What DO you call a man who was once a twink, who still dresses like a twink, who spikes his hair up like a twink, but by god, is quite clearly a twink no more?
We'd estimate there were a good 5,000 gays in the crowd. And every single one of us had the time of our lives. Including H, otherwise known as GT columnist and all-round nice guy Ian Watkins, who's now so out-and-proud he bravely took to the stage with a male dancing partner and nobody gave a damn: not the mothers clutching children to their hips, not the old women swaying their wrists from side to side as if dancing to a ballad even when they were dancing to Better Best Forgotten, and not the husbands whose wives had brought them along for the ride. All in all, it makes for quietly satisfying evidence of just how much the pop-landscape has changed for the better in the last decade.
We'll try and sum up all our minor gripes in one short paragraph: mic problems. Sort it out. And WHY open with Here and Now? Followed with You'll Be Sorry? Are we bothered? And where was Say You'll Be Mine? And the tear-inducingly pretty harmonies of I Know Him So Well? Was that a shortened version of One For Sorrow we heard? And to make space for what exactly? A completely inconsequential middle-section of solo numbers? As if there weren't enough covers in their existing back catalogue already... Oh, and the great, gaping sporadic stage-breaks were just bizarre. Finally, the futuristic aesthetics and pyrotechnics that opened the show were a bit dodge...SO Buzz-era circa-year-2000 we didn't know whether to laugh, cry or look away in shame. Or just scream our heads off like lunatics anyway. Ultimately and inevitably it was a combination of all of the above.
And now for the positives. Well, Lee's still fit as all hell. We popped to the loo during his solo number and were promptly informed we'd missed him sans-shirt. You can imagine our devastation.
Claire's reigned in that magnificent but banshee-like voice of hers and has matured into a truly fantastic singer. Hers is a voice of such strength and passion it dwarfs the voices that comprise ALL modern pop fodder. They don't make 'em like this anymore. Elsewhere there was the odd duff note, but on the whole the gang pulled it off; H was particularly impressive, rocking a far-deeper tone these days, one that really suits him.
The dancing was a riot. While some of the guys looked exhausted after five minutes, Lisa danced and performed with the most conviction, looking so genuinely ecstatic to be on stage at the O2 and free of all self-consciousness. The gorgeous, hilarious, amazing, bubbly, endlessly energetic Faye, the band's other most agile dancer and secret vocal weapon, spearheads the entire brand's force of personality. Some of the others looked at times to be going through the motions of a deceptively-simple, inevitably tightly choreographed two hours: Lisa and Faye, on the other hand, are consummate professionals through and through.
Speaking of choreography, if to begin with you feel less than than inclined to join in with what you can remember of those infamous dance routines, be warned, it won't last. One For Sorrow (still such a great, great pop song) will get you by the balls.
By the grand finale (no prizes for guessing the closing number) the hen night vibe takes hold, and, laced with white wine and/or beer, you'll lose all self-control, make an absolute fool of yourself and feel gorgeously, sublimely at ease in your own campness, where once, ten years ago or whatever, you didn't.
The O2, London.
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