Concert Review: Sugababes - One Night Only @ O2 Arena, London

Though I had flown to the UK last year already to see the Sugababes on their Fall 2022 tour, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them at their monumental ‘One Night Only’ show on September 15, 2023. Not only was this the group’s biggest headline show ever, but it was a complete celebration of their legacy and journey - I needed to be there as a longtime fan.

Sugababes VIP

Hoping for an up-close experience, I secured a Meet and Greet ticket from a friend. I had met the ladies on the last show, and they were extremely gracious and friendly, so I was excited to meet them again. After arriving at the venue for the very early 3:30p check-in time, I got in line with other excited fans (approximately 200 of them) and was happy to run into some amazing fans I had met during my previous trip. The Meet and Greet was brisker this time around, but the ladies were again very friendly and I’m happy with the picture.

Following the anxiety-ridden rush to the stage, the evening began with a curated set by two DJs from the Boiler Room, and they perfectly captured the atmosphere with hits from the 2000s and 2010s. Shygirl, an English rapper and singer, was the opening act - and she was definitely a bit of an odd choice. The music was vibey with very mature lyrics, and the reception from the crowd was a tad cold.

The energy picked up as British hits like Jamelia’s “Superstar” and Cheryl’s “Call My Name” blasted out from the speakers, and soon, the lights went down for the Sugababes’ headline set. Similar to the fall tour last year, a tease of signature hit “Push The Button” began to ring out. The simplistic stage setup, accentuated by an expansive LED screen, put the focus squarely on the Sugababes. The positivity was flowing as the ladies sang the monstrous hit, and the energy continued with the amazing revamped version of “Red Dress” (which has unexpectedly become both a fan and group favorite) and one of my personal favorites, “Hole in the Head”. They then slowed it down with “Ugly”, using selfies from fans submitted a few weeks prior - and we all laughed as we recognized each other around us.

The next run of songs was my personal highlight of the entire show - starting with 2013 comeback single, “Flatline”. It was a rocky time period for the group, the ownership of the name ‘Sugababes’ was being fought about, and the original three members released the track under ‘Mutya Keisha Siobhan’ without the support of their label at the time. Though it didn’t fare well commercially, the song remains a fan favorite and it was an extremely powerful moment during the show. Debut album single “Run For Cover” came next, with the original music video from over 20 years ago showing in its full glory on the giant screen and then a beautiful transition into the MNEK Remix that was commissioned for the anniversary release of the debut album a few years ago. After a joyful rendition of “Lost Tapes” single-that-never-was “Today”,  “Shape”, an underrated single from the second album, followed, which had Siobhan performing it for the first time. The harmonies were delectable and it was a song many of us hardcore fans were hoping to hear on the night. 

The ladies ran off the stage as a grainy VHS rip of a debut-era interview showed on the screen. It was so cute to see them all so young, and I was so excited as the familiar acoustic guitar intro of debut album title track “One Touch” began to play. As old rehearsal, performance and behind the scenes footage played, the group members returned to the stage to recreate their old dance routines and sing the innocent track. The group’s voices have matured so much and it was beautiful to hear the song with their much fuller and more powerful tones. 

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the band transitioned directly into debut album highlights “Lush Life” and “One Foot In”. The group then used the opportunity to finish this debut album celebration with their critically acclaimed debut single, “Overload”. The song has aged like fine wine, and with the seamless transition into the Majestic Remix and other UK garage tracks, the group made their way to the b-stage towards the end of the arena.

I couldn’t see them at all in this entire section, unfortunately - but it was a great idea and gave the rest of the huge crowd an opportunity to see them closer. The group began their cover of “Flowers”, but it was apparent that the members were having issues with their in-ear monitors. At the same time, us fans also experienced the sound change for the worse. The bass was extremely heavy, drowning out not just the girls’ voices, but also a lot of the other instruments. As the group continued with “Too Lost In You”, “Beat Is Gone”, and “Stronger”, the group navigated any sound issues they were having perfectly. 

The Sugababes returned to the main stage to finish off the set with “Freak Like Me”, and as the ladies left the stage for the encore, us fans knew what was coming. Earlier that day, the group released their first new single under new record label BMG, “When The Rain Comes”. After some teasing on the screens, the group returned with a crew of dancers to perform the new track. The song is a fantastic nostalgia-fused track, and of course, as the die-hard fans we are, us fans in the front had learned at least the chorus already and sang along. The harmonies sounded beautiful and the dancers brought a great energy to the performance. The group ended the show with two of their most popular hits, “Round Round” and the only Sugababes 3.0 era song in the set, “About You Now”, which included a full singalong moment. The lyrics mean so much more in this context than at the time of release - “can we bring yesterday back around? ‘Cause I know how I feel about you now.”

It was a beautiful and poignant ending to a groundbreaking show that felt like a true celebration of the group’s legacy and also a great start to the new era. I can’t wait for more music and hope I get to see them live again!

Setlist:

  1. Push The Button
  2. Red Dress
  3. Hole in the Head
  4. Ugly
  5. Flatline
  6. Run For Cover
  7. Today
  8. Shape
  9. One Touch
  10. Lush Life
  11. One Foot In
  12. Overload
  13. Flowers
  14. Too Lost In You
  15. Beat Is Gone
  16. Stronger
  17. Freak Like Me
    ---
  18. When The Rain Comes
  19. Round Round
  20. About You Now
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On April 19th, Webster Hall was filled with “FLO Lifers” eagerly awaiting the UK girl group FLO who are currently embarking on their “FLO Live” tour. Formed 2019, FLO consists of Jorja Douglas, Renee Downer, & Stella Quaresma. The group’s style distinctly derives from R&B and Hip-Hop from the 1990’s and early 2000s. For a more in-depth analysis FLO’s sound and trajectory watch here (https://youtu.be/i18hpBoW4EU)/ <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/i18hpBoW4EU" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Before FLO took the stage, Samaria, an Oakland R&B singer, opened the show. Samaria started with a simple backdrop featuring her name, keys, and drums. The audience seemed familiar with her music and if they were not, they were supportive and living in the moment. Samaria interacted with the audience well and related to them on the basis of terrible ex's and a journey through a toxic relationship. Samaria’s songs had interesting cadences, but what was  missing for us was backing vocals on the track to delineate verses from choruses. After doing some research we found that the “Out of the Way” singer has a sound also inspired by 00s R&B, with a some tracks tracks full of fun guitar licks and drum patterns reminiscent of Timbaland, but none of those instruments were present in her performance. Her backline consisted of a keyboardist and a drummer. Although Samaria sounded good, at times the keyboard’s volume was overpowering.  She worked the stage, nonetheless and  good job. 7.5 out of 10 ! ()SCORE

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/CVI-FMictlA" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share" allowfullscreen></iframe>

https://www.instagram.com/samaria/?hl=en

samaria.lnk.to/shadyhills

Okland R&B Singer, Samaria as the opening act for FLO's tour "FLO Live." Samaria on stage singing with her band.Oakland R&B singer, Samaria performing on stage at Webster Hall as the opening act for FLO (Jorja, Renee and Stella) for their sold out "FLO Live" tour.

Next up was the much-anticipated FLO, and the girls opened with "Not My Job." They were all dressed in black with cute cutouts, and their outfits were shimmery (I love sparkle!) which was a welcome change from their wardrobe at the MOBO awards. Their faces were beat (we love a “natural glam”),

their vocals were tight, and their choreography was utilized well to highlight grooves. The chemistry between the girls was undeniable, and their vocal blend was seamless— absolutely chill-inducing. Jorja's thick vocal tone took the songs to a soulful place, and Stella's airy delivery allowed her to float at the top of the group's harmonies. Renee's smooth, warm alto voice added a coolness to their sound and gained a lot more stability in live singing. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention FLO’s band! The band consisted of some past schoolmates, which added another layer of charm to the whole set!

The absolute highlight of the show was "Losing You” In this live arrangement, the girls emoted and connected with the audience on a deeper level. Chris loved harmonized adlibs, brand new bridge and extra outdo including a guitar solo.  As a special treat, FLO performed a cover of Jamelia's version of "Superstar" by Christine Militon.  Even though a majority of the NYC crowd had no clue who Jamelia was and didn't know the song, the girls did teach the chorus before singing the song, so some fans were able to follow along. Chris and I certainly knew the song and even received compliments on synchronized impromptu choreography.

Speaking of choreo…

The girls' choreography was something we were curious to see, and they did not disappoint. They danced well, and they were given grooves as opposed to sharp movements that really complemented each member's personal style. In terms of technique, they aren’t K-pop idols so we weren’t expecting crazy formations and “point dances,” but you can tell they put in the work to provide another layer of entrainment to the experience. There was even some chair-ography for their performance of "Change," a new track about a lover's inability to "do the work" necessary to improve the condition of the relationship.

The girls did perform their latest single, "Fly Girl" ft Missy Elliot, and although Missy Elliot was present in the audience, she did not join the performance.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">.<a href="https://twitter.com/flolikethis?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@flolikethis</a> big up to Flo out here in the states on the road working hard! Keep doing yall thizzzzle!!!🔥 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Flygirl?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Flygirl</a>💇🏾‍♀️💃🏾💅🏾 <a href="https://t.co/Qtgr2f2KBl">pic.twitter.com/Qtgr2f2KBl</a></p>&mdash; Missy Elliott (@MissyElliott) <a href="https://twitter.com/MissyElliott/status/1649101483621728272?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 20, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Fans (the FLO Lifers) were absolutely living their best lives! They knew all the words to FLO’s songs—the BGV's and the ad-libs. It was a room full of genuine love and screams! FLO closed the night with their debut single, "Cardboard Box," and this performance featured a heavenly bridge section.

Overall, the show was good, and for this to be the group's first headlining tour, we were impressed with the girls’ improvement from performances like the MOBO Awards, where nerves played a noticeable factor. FLO is worth the hype for sure, and we cannot wait to see the new era of girl groups being led by FLO. For their NYC debut, we rate them a 9 out of 10! FLO Lifers left Webster Hall with unforgettable memories and high expectations for FLO's future performances.