Review of the week: Pussycat Dolls * * *
'When I grow up I wanna be a Pussycat Doll," proclaims the slogan on a pink girls T-shirt, which can be all yours for the princely sum of €30.
Indeed, these Dolls are model professionals when it comes to flogging merchandise. You can even take home a recording of the entire show in a USB wristband for €20, while two huge screens on each side of the stage feature a rolling banner displaying text messages from fanclub members. The text generation can show off their love, but you can be sure that they've got to pay for the privilege.
Despite a dramatic entrance on customised motorbikes, the early segment of the show seems like a massive anti-climax. It's solid stuff but far from the eye-popping pop spectacle it should be.
Thankfully, Nicole Scherzinger and her troupe of Pussycats soon get in their stride with a massive production that references Andy Warhol and the Moulin Rouge. There have already been shows in the new O2 that were musically superior, but few can match this for sheer attitude.
Hush Hush segues into the karaoke staple I Will Survive, while Nicole leads a great vampish version of Shirley Bassey's Hey Big Spender. The criticism that she is the only Pussycat Doll of merit seems well-founded, as Nicole almost single-handedly runs the show. A solo turn from each Doll appears tokenistic, designed to proffer the illusion that this is an all-singing, all-dancing group on equal footing.
The Dolls thank the crew, the dancers, their fans and even their creator Robin Antin. It's a bizarre mention, as I don't ever remember hearing Westlife or Boyzone thanking Louis Walsh onstage.
However, Pussycat Dolls are a bit different from your average girl or boy band, evolving from a burlesque concept that's seen Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Kim Kardashian and Carmen Electra all do a turn. Brand PCD as a pop group is just one of numerous spin-offs, encompassing everything from computer games to a line of lingerie and a reality TV show.
There's no denying the fact that the singles are stunning. Also, there is a refreshing lack of any embarrassing filler fluff that characterised the recent damp squib of a show from New Kids on the Block.
Beep, Stickwitu, and Whatcha Think About That are all examples of sassy pop r'n'b at its slickest. Sadly, Snoop Dogg or Missy Elliot aren't here to do their star turns, but that would be asking a lot.
They save their signature hit Don't Cha as a curtain closer. When released in 2005, critics wrote them off as a novelty act. That they undoubtedly are, but PCD are achieving what their album promises -- Doll Domination. Judging by the lukewarm reception to boyband reunions except Take That and the dominance of acts such as Girls Aloud, boy bands are dead. Long live the girls...