The underdogs finally came out on top at Sugababe’s massive show at the O2 Arena (Pictue: Getty Images)
‘It’s been a rocky road to get here,’ Siobhan Donaghy admits to the 10,000 strong crowd at London’s 02 Arena – the biggest headlining show of any formation of Sugababes, 23 years after their debut single.
She’s not wrong. Being a lifelong Sugababes fan has often felt like supporting a football team on the brink of relegation. Not because of their quality – at least until the band’s colossal collapse in 2010 without any of its founding members still left for their dire seventh LP Sweet 7 – but there was a fragility with each of their line-ups which suggested they could split at any second.
But hours before their “one night only” at the 02, Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan released their first single in a decade – and first in 23 years as Sugababes.
It’s an uplifting mid-tempo celebration of their remarkable journey which showcases the distinctive harmonies and vocals which always set them apart from other UK pop giants of the noughties.
It shot straight to the top of the iTunes chart and remarkably it feels as though there’s more buzz for Sugababes, who have long been the underdogs of pop, than ever before.
If you needed any proof, it could be found in London’s 02 Arena. It was my 20th time seeing Sugababes, albeit through various line-ups, and I’ve never seen them or many other groups so sincerely having the time of their lives together.
Friday’s gig marks the trio’s biggest-ever show (Picture: Getty Images for ABA)
Opening the night with Push The Button, a guitar-heavy remix of Red Dress and Hole In The Head was just an aperitif of their unbeatably electric back catalogue of over two decades with of music.
After Ugly was the criminally underrated Flat Line, their 2013 comeback single which failed to chart when released as Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan during a legal battle to win the name they founded as teens.
The first sign this was going to be a particularly special night even for those among us who have seen them again and again at numerous festivals came when they sat on the stairs for the rarely performed Shape and Run For Cover.
Die-hard fans were treated to tracks they never expected to hear live (Picture: JMEnternational/Redferns)
Their debut album One Touch launched to mediocre success in 2000, but widely celebrated as a cult classic for years to come. As a montage of their earliest years played on screen, I turned to my friend and gasped, ‘maybe they’ll do One Foot In?’ an album track many die-hard fans regret was never a single.
Nah, ‘too niche’ we agreed.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine seeing their early deep cuts fill out the 02, as they played a One Touch medley of the title track, Lush Life and, against our better judgement One Foot In. It genuinely felt life-affirming.
The crowd was deafening as they went right back to the beginning, sat down on three stools and performed the same moody choreography they did as teenagers for Overload, their anthemic debut single which still feels as fresh now as it ever did.
There are years in the Sugababes left to come (Picture: WireImage)
Emerging in the middle of the crowd on another stage, the band danced care-free to their loved cover of Flowers before stripping back for three of their most anguishing downtempo tracks, Stronger, The Beat Has Gone and Too Lost In You.
After performing their new single for the very first time, they rounded the night with arguably their most celebrated number one singles – Freak Like Me, Round Round and About You Now, which becomes surprisingly moving when chanted by a packed arena.
It’s never been a more exciting time to be a Sugababes fan or, at least by the looks of it, an actual Sugababe. For the first time we can sleep easy feeling secure there are years in the Sugababes left to come and there’s every chance we haven’t even seen the best of them yet.
I very much doubt their first time headlining the 02 Arena will be their last.
When The Rain Comes is available to stream now.