The ‘90s were a weird and wonderful time. It was the decade of frozen tips, boy bands, Leonardo Dicaprio, dial-up Internet and Furbies. It inspired the hundreds of “You were a ‘90s kid if…” memes that litter your Facebook feed each day, and the fashion trends that just won’t stop resurfacing (ie; chokers, mum jeans). On a personal note, I spent the majority of my ‘90s years in diapers and clutching my Britney Spears doll, stress and debt free. It was a simple time and a colourful time, so it’s no wonder we millennials are filled with nostalgia.
Enter last night, where hundreds of ‘90s kids flocked to Festival Hall to witness the event many of us had waited 20 something years for. The union of five pop favourites, Liberty X, East 17, S Club, Atomic Kitten and headlining act B*Witched. The excitement was felt by all of us, even in the ‘90s a lineup like this would be unprecedented. The house DJ, DJ Levins, kicked off the night by playing all the songs off our guilty pleasures playlists. ‘I’ve come from a time machine all the way from 2001, from a time where pop music was the best it’s ever been’ he announced, a claim the audience surely agreed wholeheartedly with.
Liberty X was the first up on stage, with a set consisting of a mere four songs. The band performed as a trio, sans their two male members and seemed genuinely excited to be there, despite their short set time. Early ‘00s classic Just a Little was the perfect kick off to the night, and their admittedly shaky cover of Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody drew a considerable reaction from the not yet full crowd.
East 17 came next, a band I had never heard of before. I didn’t seem to be the only one, many punters seemed visibly confused- even more so when the band announced that for just $50 (they had supposedly brought it down from the suggested $100), you could meet them backstage after the show. I’m still not really sure where East 17 fit in the scope of ‘90s pop, their tracks seemed to linger on both the rap and dance side of genres. Their members also look like they could be the inspiration behind Pitbull’s aesthetic. It wasn’t a fantastic performance (I caught DJ Levins texting behind his decks at numerous times), but it was clear that they exerted all their energy into it, which is commendable.
‘90s events, or any decade-themed nights for that matter, are inherently uncomfortable at times. Though awkward moments are a given, there’s nothing quite like seeing a 7-piece band reduced to just two members. DJ Levins graciously forwent the numeral from S Club, and welcomed Bradley McIntosh and Tina Barrett to the stage to deliver a performance that honestly could have been a lot worse, all things considered. The now duo apologised to the crowd on behalf of the missing Jo O’Meara, who is currently in hospital due to what they claim is a strangulated bowel. Despite her absence, hits like S Club Party and Don’t Stop Movin’ drew what was likely the biggest crowd reaction of the entire night. There were at times, gaps that neither Tina nor Bradley could fill- so they lent a microphone to selected members of the audience to insert their own vocals. They did a pretty impressive job of carrying the weight of their five missing counterparts, though as Mcintosh himself admitted, “S Club 2 sounds really awkward”.
After a short break consisting of a few more superb ‘90s hits from a playlist, Atomic Kitten took to the stage. My introduction to Atomic Kitten was from the Lizzie McGuire movie soundtrack CD, and in the interest of full disclosure I tended to skip The Tide is High in favour of the more fun songs on offer (typically, Supermodel – RuPaul). Like S Club, they were down a member due to illness, but Liberty X was able to lend them Michelle Heaton who slipped into the group seamlessly. Less seamless however, was Kerry Katona who from the outset looked like she was unfamiliar with her own band’s material. Their set was lengthy, and they played a multitude of familiar songs that up until now, I was aware of but didn’t credit to them.
When looking at the line-up, it was surprising to me that the headlining act was B*Witched. Perhaps, in Europe this would make sense, but I just didn’t feel like B*Witched have ever garnered the same amount of exposure down under. Their half hour set was by far the longest of all, and I watched while ignoring the guy behind me who took it upon himself to scream ‘play something we know!’ at regular intervals. He did have a point though, only a couple of songs were recognizable and the audience –at least in my section- was growing tired. It was apparent that the trio were giving their best performance; it was just a performance that should have been slotted earlier in the night. It wasn’t a total lost cause, their final song C’est La Vie bought us back to life and had the audience crying out ‘get a life!’ along with the band members.
All in all, the night was the perfect celebration of nostalgia and great pop music. While it’s unlikely any of these bands will grace our shores any time soon, they’re worth the ticket cost- even if they are down a member or five.