In the dim and distant 90s, after I graduated, I stayed on in Nottingham, the city where I had been to university. There was nothing there for me apart from a boyfriend (now my husband) with the beginnings of a career, earning peanuts. No job, no money, no family, no friends.
My husband earned so little he was forced to work in a pub to supplement his income. We lived in a studio flat for one person. I endlessly applied for jobs and got nothing. And so I worked in McDonalds. It was a dark time. A deeper shade of blue. And it lasted two whole years.
From my late teens right until I had my kids, I was unable to be in a room for more than two seconds without putting music on. The stereo was on the floor and I switched it on with my foot as soon as I walked into the room. I was an indie kid. I liked a bit of grunge and a bit of rock.
But what got me through my dark time?! THE SPICE GIRLS. They were about my age, they were doing something for themselves. They were shouty and happy and confident. They had GIRL POWER. Yeah, I know. Tragedy.
After the Spice Girls, my pop floodgates were well and truly opened. Nothing was too cheesy for me. It made me happy, it made me want to dance. Who cares it if was uncool?! Not me with my no friends, that’s for sure. I loved Five and I loved Steps.
I saw all of them in concert, on more than one occasion, when I’d got myself up and out of that dark hole into a slightly-less-dark hole in London. I saw the Spice Girls with and without Geri. I saw them play at Wembley Arena when England were playing at Wembley Stadium. As we headed away from the Arena in slightly the wrong direction, guess who I saw under an umbrella with two bodyguards heading for the Arena?! ONLY DAVID BECKHAM.
Anyway, I digress. Steps are back and there was no way I was going to miss them in concert. It would be the last thing on my mind. They could sing, they could dance and they had some great songs back in the day. I had to go and see if it was still the case. Or are they better best forgotten?
I went along to Cardiff with my sister and her best friend (both significantly younger than me). We’d seen Steps together back in the day when they were still kids and my sister’s friend’s mum had given us a lift there. On the way there we debated the important issues – do the boys actually sing, will Claire have lost the weight again and was their third album any good? To be honest, I’d even forgotten the third album – with tracks like Stomp and Summer of Love – existed. Although I DID remember The Way You Make Me Feel, which has a special place in my heart as we used to sing it to my eldest as a newborn. It can still bring tears to my eyes. It’s such a good song that I assumed it must have come from the second album.
Our fellow Steps fans were a combination of teenage girls, overweight, over-made up middle-aged Welsh women and the entire gay community of South Wales and beyond.
The support acts were dire, although I’m pleased to say they only played for 15 minutes each. Shock Lady was like a young Siouxsie Sioux in a burlesque outfit. The biggest shock was that she kept all her clothes on. Kamaliya is apparently a Russian superstar. She dressed like GaGa and danced very badly. If she was in my dance class, she would definitely have been on the back line!
And then Steps came on! And we all cheered! And counted down! Although they didn’t actually come on when the countdown finished! Oh well. And there were some upside down dangly dancers like Take That had, only on a much smaller, less impressive scale.
Steps were encased in plastic tubes and they burst straight into Here & Now. And they all sang! H has got an amazing voice and can really belt out a tune. He sings the lead on Deeper Shade of Blue, so that clarified that debate for us. And as for Claire… She always was the best singer and she’s probably even better now. (Although, yes, still quite overweight. It’s a shame she had to wear the costumes she did.)
5,6,7,8 is truly an appalling song. Frankly, I may never have got into Steps, what with them releasing that first and everything. So why was it so much fun?! Why were we singing and line dancing like crazy?
Altogether they did 22 songs – and I’d forgotten how many great ones there are. I love Better Best Forgotten, One for Sorrow (I hadn’t forgotten the dance moves for that one), Last Thing on my Mind, The Way You Make Me Feel, well, pretty much all of them really. And as for Tragedy… don’t even get me started on how much I love that one…
All five of them did a solo – as a ‘gift to their fans’ or to hog a bit of the limelight or prove they really could sing or so they could have a bit of a sit down (and who can blame them? they were dancing non-stop for two hours).
Lee’s Moves Like Jagger was pretty risqué with plenty of glimpses of his chest. H did Don’t Stop Believing, which is one of my absolute favourite songs. Fay, my favourite Step back in the day because she was the prettiest and the coolest AND the second best singer, did One Night Only. In a VERY camp show, she sent the camp factor through the roof when the male backing dancers appeared in nothing but the tiniest of sequinned pink hotpants. Claire’s voice on I Surrender, a song I’m not familiar with, was stunning and she got massive cheers. Seriously, I reckon Adele is the only one who could give that voice a run for its money.
The show closed, of course, with Tragedy and it was no less spectacular for its predictability.
Better best forgotten? No way. I’m off to look into tickets for their summer shows…