The Spice Girls’ last hurrah is imminent. Mel B, Mel C, Emma Bunton and Geri Horner flew to Dublin together yesterday in advance of the opening night of their reunion tour which starts tomorrow.
For the next three weeks, Spice Mania of a sort will be in full swing, culminating in three sold-out nights at Wembley stadium in June.
Naturally, every last drop of money is being wrung from the mini-tour, which looks set to net them up to £10 million apiece. A Greatest Hits album is being re-released, videos have been remastered, and mountains of merchandise produced.
But despite all the smiles and the relentless positivity on social media there have been many dramas along the way, not least Posh’s refusal to take part and Mel B’s bombshell over that lesbian fling with Geri.
So what did it take to get the Spice Girls on the road again? And what can we expect on stage at Croke Park tomorrow? ALISON BOSHOFF investigates.
Mel B, Mel C, Emma Bunton and Geri Horner flew to Dublin together yesterday in advance of the return of the Spice Girls, pictured together in 1997
SAY YOU’LL BE THERE, VICTORIA
Even though the ‘girls’ begged her to be involved, Victoria Beckham was never the strongest singer or dancer, and felt very out of her comfort zone at the previous reunion for the 2012 London Olympics. She also wants to concentrate on her fashion business.
Initially, there was fury when she refused to join the tour. Mel B sent her a text message calling her a ‘f****** bitch’ and wore a Posh mask for Hallowe en.
Slightly more diplomatically, she said in an interview: ‘Yeah, I think it is tough, because obviously, she’s a huge part of the band.’
Meanwhile, Geri recently cropped Victoria out of a throwback picture on Instagram.
Mel C and Geri, however, have attempted to smooth things over. Mel C, 45, said in November: ‘I saw Victoria recently and she is still very much a part of the Spice Girls. She really supports us and we really support her . . .
Geri Horner on stage rehearsing alongside Mel C in a sneak peek of the Spice Girls reunion tour
‘But she did raise the point that she was never actually asked. We just presumed.’
Geri added: ‘I spoke to her before the announcement, and she has said for years she doesn’t want to do it any more, so we knew that.’
Victoria told an interviewer: ‘What I do now is my passion and a full-time job. I’m excited to see it [the tour], and I’m sure when I’m there and they are on stage, there will be a part of me that feels a bit left out, because a part of me will always be a Spice Girl.’
However, it now seems that she has turned down invitations to attend the concerts, and declined to join them on stage at Wembley. She’s also refused tickets for her family, for fear it will feed the story that she is snubbing her ex-bandmates if they go and she doesn’t.
Victoria and Mel B’s differing personalities were among the bigger problems for the band in their heyday. The two women also fell out during the previous comeback tour in 2007 and didn’t speak for at least two years afterwards.
WANNABE A MILLIONAIRE?
Mel B’s enthusiasm for this tour is certainly related to the fact that she was broke after exiting her marriage to film producer Stephen Belafonte.
She was ordered to pay Belafonte £270,000 in legal fees and more than £3,000 a month in child support payments by a judge in their divorce agreement. Her lawyers had previously said in court that she had spent all of her £38 million fortune. She’s also recently paid £1.8 million in an out-of-court settlement with her former nanny, and has lost her £2.5 million-a-year job as a judge on America’s Got Talent.
Mel B’s enthusiasm for this tour is related to the fact that she was broke after exiting her marriage to film producer Stephen Belafonte
The tour may net each of the four performers up to £10 million, when income from merchandising, sponsorship and royalties are included.
Their Greatest Hits album, released in 2007 to coincide with the last tour, is being re-released on May 31. It’s said that Mel C, who has a daughter by her property developer ex, Thomas Starr, may also be glad of the money, although she is said to be worth £27 million. Mum-of-two Emma Bunton, said to be worth £21 million, has quit her job with Heart FM and released a solo album.
Mel B was hospitalised last Friday with serious infections
in both eyes. She was initially seen at London’s specialist Moorfields hospital, and then treated at Luton and Dunstable University hospital.
She said: ‘I had an awful experience last week when I went blind in my right eye and my left eye went blurry. I was actually in a lot of pain and very, very scared.’
She has been prescribed medication, but has been passed fit to perform by the tour’s insurers.
All of the girls have found the demands of rehearsingfor the shows tough — especially getting fit enough toperform, tough now that they’re in their 40s.
Inevitably,they’re all reportedly losing weight.
Geri, who has been very slender for years, is looking particularly slim and, because of her well-publicised history of eating disorders this has caused some concern among her friends.
Without even setting foot on stage, Victoria, 45, will profit from a slice of the pie, and stands to make around £2.5 million through royalties and merchandise.
A source said: ‘There is a feeling of now or never about this reunion. They are coming up to 50 and feel that this will really be it — it’s a last chance to do it.’
DANCING QUEENS ARE ALL ON SONG
The Spice World 2019 tour was announced in November last year.
Fitness and vocal training started in earnest in February and for the past two months rehearsals have been underway, mostly at the Dance Attic studios in Fulham, West London.
The lead vocal coach is David Grant, best-known for Fame Academy. Earlier this year he posted the ominous message: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’
Paul Roberts is in charge of choreography and staging. He worked with One Direction for five years and also did the most recent tours of UK stars Robbie Williams and Sam Smith.
He is working with Lee Lodge, the creative director who has also worked with Sam Smith, and with lighting designer Tim Routledge and designer Jason Sherwood, who is responsible for the striking Nineties retro design of the Spice World stage. There seems to be about 30 dancers in all, and each Spice Girl has a dance team of five performers assigned to her.
On Sunday, a full costume rehearsal was undertaken at ‘Hangar 2’, at Cardington Studios, Bedfordshire. At five acres, it’s a behemoth of a sound stage which was originally built by the RAF to hold airships during World War I. The girls and a small invited audience of their management teams and families ran through the show.
At the reunion show, Geri ‘wants to look more age-appropriate’ and will not be wearing her famous dress
The staging is apparently ‘quite straightforward’ without any big conceptual elements. A source said: ‘There isn’t an element of great spectacle about it and they’ve not gone for loads of dancers and mass choreography. It’s actually quite simple. I am sure the fans will be happy.’
ROAST CHICK-EM & MEL BBQ BEEF
As well as the re-release of the Spice Girls Greatest Hits (also with a limited edition vinyl album) there are five picture T-shirts, featuring all five band members in their prime, on sale at £25 each. Then there are hoodies with a Spice World globe logo for £45, available in white, pale purple, black and pink. A kids’ T-shirt is £15.
SPICE UP YOUR WARDROBE, GERI
Award-winning theatrical costume designer Gabriella Slade was hired to come up with outfits for the tour.
One particular challenge was the question of Ginger Spice’s iconic Union Jack dress.
The micro-mini was worn at the 1997 Brit Awards and was famously made from a tea towel sewn by Geri’s sister onto a little black dress; it was so short it showed her knickers.
It was later sold for £41,300 at auction, making it the most expensive piece of pop star clothing ever sold.
Although the idea of the shows is to recreate the old Wannabe zeitgeist — platform heels, body-con dresses and a hen-night feminism — the answer from Geri on ‘that’ dress was a definitive ‘no’. Word is she ‘wants to look more age-appropriate’.
Ms Slade has managed to find a compromise dress, however, which still features the Union Jack, but isn’t as tiny as the original.
According to a source: ‘Geri wants to look elegant. She has found it a challenge to be asked to wear the brassy kind of gear she used to put on in the old days.’
As Geri herself said in an interview: ‘When I’m in doubt, I often think: ‘What would the Queen do?’
Fans can also buy a logo cap for £25 and Spice Girls enamel pin badges with phrases such as ‘Girl Power’ on them for £10 each. A deal with Walkers crisps has resulted in the four performing Spice Girls having their own flavour. Emma Bunton is on ‘Roast Chick-Em’, Melanie Chisholm is ‘Mel C-Salt and Vinegar’, Geri is ‘Ginger and Chilli’ and Mel B is ‘Mel BBQ Beef’. There’s no Posh flavour, however. Victoria has also been omitted from the Spice Girl-themed Little Miss books, which are out in June. Each one also has a Little Miss mug, Little Miss art print, Little Miss tote bag and Little Miss coaster.
FRIENDSHIP NEVER ENDS . . .
Mel B’s sensational assertion that she enjoyed a lesbian fling with Geri during the band’s heyday nearly derailed the tour. In March, Mel B, 43, said: ‘Geri’s going to hate me for this because she’s all posh in her country house and her husband. But it’s a fact. It just happened and we just giggled at it and that was it.’
Geri was extremely hurt by Mel’s revelation, and for a couple of days Mel B declined to apologise to her because she reasoned that she had done nothing wrong. Things are now back on a more or less even keel, although it is one topic which was certainly out of bounds during rehearsals.
All the girls are, for the most part, travelling to gigs separately and arranging accommodation separately with their families and friends for the 14 dates of the tour.
A source said: ‘It has been fraught but they are trying to leave that in the past. They have the occasional spat, but they are really focused on making this tour work.’
In an interview this week, Geri was adamant that she and Mel B are the best of buddies.
She said: ‘No one is perfect but it’s all fine. We’re having a blast. It’s an absolute laugh. I try and focus on what’s important now. Let’s enjoy what we have, what’s real and what’s important.
Mel B’s sensational assertion that she enjoyed a lesbian fling with Geri during the band’s heyday nearly derailed the tour but they have patched up since
‘It’s all fine, so I feel lucky. We keep pinching ourselves because we’re trying to enjoy the journey.’
Mel B’s take is predictably more down to earth. She said: ‘I love Geri to bits, but she’s bats*** crazy. I’m crazy in just like a humble northern way; Geri’s crazy in a different way.’
The daughter of a cleaner from Watford, with a background in podium dancing, Geri has reinvented herself. She lives with Formula 1 boss Christian Horner in a 15th-century house with horses, goats, donkeys chickens and cats. Only Emma Bunton attended Geri’s wedding in 2015, which is perhaps revealing about relations with the other Spice Girls.
HOW FIVE HAVE BECOME FOUR
Spice Girls enthusiasts will probably be relieved to hear they are singing exactly the parts they did on the records originally.
The exception, of course, are the vocals contributed by Posh. The girls are apparently now ‘just singing harmonies together on the bits she did.’