In the late '90s, like it or not, there was no avoiding the Spice Girls. For some, the British girl group was little more than a sexed-up Pepsi ad, an annoying chorus ("zigazig" huh?) and a collection

In the late '90s, like it or not, there was no avoiding the Spice Girls. For some, the British girl group was little more than a sexed-up Pepsi ad, an annoying chorus ("zigazig" huh?) and a collection of bizarre nicknames that didn't make any sense.

For others -- namely, 'tweens -- Posh, Scary, Sporty, Baby and Ginger Spice meant much more: bonding with friends, "Girl Power" and platform shoes. The Spice Girls also represented a shift in the musical landscape, a Technicolor wave of unabashed pop music, manufactured and marketed beyond the point of absurdity, washing over the charts post-grunge and making way for pop queens like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

While Victoria "Posh" Beckham and Melanie "Scary" Brown have kept up a David Beckham- and- Eddie Murphy-assisted tabloid presence in recent years, the Spice Girls were pretty much off the cultural radar until they announced their reunion last summer.

So, for a brief two hours on Feb. 18, the spandex-and-glitter-clad crowd inside New York's Madison Square Garden was transported back to 1998 in all its campy "Spice World" glory. Coming at the tail end of the successful reunion tour, the Girls' first trek since 1999 and the first New York gig as a five-piece, they looked and sounded better than ever, delivering one nostalgic crowd-pleaser after another.

Opening and closing with the Latin-inspired anthem "Spice Up Your Life," the set primarily stuck to hit singles from the group's first two albums. Over the course of the night, they worked their way through the stomping, playful "Stop;" a deliciously sultry take of "2 Become 1" and a vamped-up, big-band version of "Too Much." The ridiculously infectious single that started it all, "Wannabe," drove the room into high-pitch squealing pandemonium.

"Headlines," one of the two new songs from the Girls' 2007 "Greatest Hits" CD, was the only new material of the night, which also included each girl taking center stage for a solo number. The over-the-top, sexy choreography, cheeky outfit changes made for an enjoyable spectacle. The live singing was surprisingly good (save during for the dubious and infrequent solo turns from Beckham).

The appearance of Beckham's 3-year-old son Cruz, however, was one of the evening's highlights. The boy treated the audience to an adorable, impressive breakdancing routine ("He's the next Justin Timberlake," his mom joked) as the Girls brought their kids onstage during "Mama."

Feeding off the energy of the crowd, it was clear during the duration of the show that the energized group was genuinely glad to be back. If only for one night, the Spice Girls delivered everything one could ask for from a Spice Girls show, even a decade past their prime.

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