Girls Aloud at the O2, 23/06/24

Jubilant, touching and nostalgic: London welcomes a victory lap for the girlband who conquered the 00s

It’s the second night of Girls Aloud’s five-show stint at London’s O2 arena and the crowd is a mixed bag. There are middle-aged, flower-crowned women with their unenthusiastic other halves; queer friendship groups in matching ‘Sex, Drugs and Cheryl Cole’ t-shirts; and families with young children. But what do they all have in common? They all enjoy brilliant pop music, and that’s exactly what Girls Aloud deliver

Kicking things off atop draped floating podiums to perform ethereal track ‘Untouchable’, the four-piece promise a “journey of nostalgia” through their catalogue of future-facing, quality pop hits. Sounding more confident than ever, Nicola’s belts and ad-libs add an extra special magic to ‘The Show’ and ‘Something Kinda Ooh’, while Cheryl’s newfound raspiness finds its groove on a pyrotechnic performance of ‘Sound Of The Underground’ and ‘Sexy! No No No…’, which is performed in towering inflatable dresses.

Never as famed for their dancing abilities (sans Cheryl), it’s clear that some members feel slightly more comfortable than others being back on stage again. Despite this, the group treat fans to a re-enactment of the brilliantly chaotic ‘Biology’ choreography and a ballroom moment during ‘Can’t Speak French’. Lovers of the band’s deep cuts are also in luck, with ‘Girl Overboard’, ‘Graffiti My Soul’ and ‘On The Metro’ all making appearances on the setlist. 

Every so often, Nadine, Kimberly, Nicola and Cheryl take time to thank fans for the 22 years of support they’ve received since winning Popstars: The Idols. It’s difficult to ignore the missing piece of the Girls Aloud puzzle tonight, though. Sarah Harding’s firecracker personality and voice is sorely missed, but a number of poignant tributes are sprinkled throughout the evening to keep her memory alive. ‘I’ll Stand By You’ is dedicated to her (and met with a solar system of swaying phone torches), while the band leave the stage to a montage of Sarah during the outro of ‘Whole Lotta History’, which ends with a moving message on screen: ‘the darkest nights produce the brightest stars’. 

Jubilant, touching and, as promised, nostalgic, tonight is yet another victory lap for the UK’s chief 2000s girlband and a testament to the feel-good power of pop. 

Girls Aloud continue their UK tour until 30 June. Find tickets here.