If you fit somewhere within the “millennial” age bracket, there is one sound that probably gives you an intensely nostalgic, Pavlovian-response sort of excitement. I’m not talking about the Tracy Beaker theme tune or the shwoosh shwoosh of your mum shaking potato smilies in the oven tray – although yeah, those too. I’m referring to Mel B’s cackle right at the beginning of “Wannabe,” just before she goes “Soooooo… tell me what you want, what you really really want” and launches into the biggest UK girl band song of all time.
At this point, the Spice Girls and their legacy have become so embedded into the fabric of British culture that there really isn’t much to say anymore. I’m not going to talk about Girl Power and what that meant or doesn’t mean. I’m not going to explain how they changed the face of British pop, or speak about their individual journeys since the 90s. But I will say that – as you've probably seen all over your IG stories – they reunited for a European tour for the first time since the 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony. I went to one of the tour's final London dates at Wembley last week. And if you couldn’t make it, here’s everything that happened:
First of all, Wembley Arena has a capacity of 90,000 people. Now, imagine all those people stampeding towards the stadium at 8PM. Now, imagine those people are mainly British women and gay men in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties. Imagine them wearing baby buns and Union Jack dresses and thigh-high boots and leopard print catsuits. Imagine them downing canned pink G&Ts, which then clatter on the floor behind them when dropped like tin rocks. Imagine some people vomiting, others crying, everyone screaming.
The only way I can describe the crowd is: big club toilet queue energy. It was cool to see this particular age group – who are regularly painted as depressed, anxious, generally too serious – absolutely lose their shit in a joyful, uninhibited way. And there was a tangible woman-to-woman camaraderie throughout. A perfect example of ‘the Spice Girls crowd’ was when I went to the loo and a girl started banging on the door with her heels which she had taken off and were now swinging in her hands. “Baaaaabe. Baaaabe,” she was shouting over the cubicle, before flinging some loo roll over to me, “Here ya go! They've run ooooout.”
Very red, white and blue. A bit military. Sort of cultish. There was a giant, spinning red globe in the middle of the stage with SPICE WORLD emblazoned across the front. The general aesthetic of the whole thing sat somewhere between “Brexit” and “Scientology”. That said, the Spice Girls did keep saying things like “Girl Power is for EVERYONE” and at one point they were screaming out the different country names of flags they could see in the crowd. So yeah, I think the look they were going for was “patriotic, but not in, like, a Nigel Farage way.”
I couldn't hear much because every word they sang was drowned out by an endless sea of steaming glittery faces singing the same thing. That was almost more fun, though. Like, imagine Spice Girls-themed karaoke except instead of a booth with your mates you're at Wembley, and the actual Spice Girls are in front of you doing high kicks and wearing catsuits at you. I will also say that Mel C still has an incredible voice and held the whole thing together, just as she did in the 90s.
I feel like for this section I should just list some things that happened and you'll get the idea:
- They each took turns crying. Mel C cried first, Emma Bunton cried twice during the middle and Geri cried at the end, while wearing a billowing floor-length cape. Mel B didn't cry, but she did tell everyone they need to chill out.
- Mel B also shouted “Lock up yer sons! Lock up yer daughters! I'll have everyone!” in a thick Leeds accent. We stan a bi legend.
- Mel C spent the whole night dressed as a sort of bejewelled cyborg. Think Fifth Element but Swarovski.
- Geri drank some tea out of a tiny china mug halfway through a dance routine.
- When Emma sang the “Be a little bit wiser baby / Put it on, put it on” line from “2 Become 1” she waggled her finger at everyone in the audience, because she's a mum now and gives off wise mum energy.
- A man next to me was wearing a Nirvana 'smiley face' tee, but instead of 'Nirvana' it said 'Spice World'. He was alone, crying and swaying.
Honestly? Watching the Spice Girls was the most fun I’ve had all year – you'd have to be extremely cynical not to enjoy it. It was like a crowd of 90,000 seven-year-olds had shown up to watch their favourite band, except 20 years have passed and they’re now all adults who can drink cups of pink wine and scream and stay up all night.
When I was a kid, I so badly wanted to be part of the Spice Girls. They were mischievous and loud and raucous and normal-looking. They would jump on cars and pinch Prince Charles’ bum and shout over each other during interviews. Watching them perform at Wembley among so much joyous energy and pure hysteria was like observing the generation they raised, in real time. The Spice Girls encouraged us to live loudly and love each other fiercely, without irony. We're still doing it decades later. And so are they, it turns out.