Right from the support DJ’s set you can tell the aims of the evening. DJ Kayper (named, presumably, after the small salty pea like thing so beloved of any chef with a Mediterranean bent) was on the decks, playing a solid playlist of ’90s hip-hop bangers. Clearly, All Saints were attempting that most modern of things; a rebrand.
With this playlist of the Fugees, Tupac, etc, All Saints would move themselves from ’90s also-rans, the British girlband that wasn’t the Spice Girls, to the leader of era’s British R&B scene. And with their gig at Koko this evening, called by Shaznay their first gig in 17 years, they mostly succeeded.
Whereas the Spices quickly became less a band and more a few brilliant songs used to sell lollipops, camera and crisps, All Saints always seemed a more musical band, singing in harmonies and working with pop geniuses like William Orbit of Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’ fame. Nearly twenty years since the release of their first song as a four-piece, ‘Never Ever’, and decade since their last attempt at a comeback, the songs still stand up.
‘Bootie Call’ remains a sexy ode to casual sex, made only more relevant as Tinder has become as essential part of anyone’s arsenal for getting some arse. ‘Black Coffee’ remains a chilled electronica classic, maybe one of the best number ones of the first decade of the noughties. Even neglected single ‘Chick Fit’, rehabilitated in this gig as an opener, retains its sass a decade on, still sounding like a song Little Mix wishes they could record.
The new songs too stand up. ‘One Strike’ and ‘One Woman Man’, already released, made a real impression on a crowd that lost its mind when it came to the mass singalong of ‘Never Ever’, and new songs like ‘Ratchet Behaviour’ lived up to their fantastic titles.
But oh, that singalong. True, the crowd drowned out the girls sometimes (though if I hadn’t performed for nearly two decades I wouldn’t much be up for belting either), but being joined en masse to song how “the alphabet runs right from a to zeeeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyyyyy” was that rare thing; ’90s nostalgia done right, perhaps because it wasn’t empty, but came instead with fresh new songs and a genuine excitement to be back together which might not even last til the tour in October.
(side note: the choice to do ‘War of Nerves’ over ‘Lady Marmalade’ was totally wrong. Only real problem I had with the gig.)
I Know Where It’s At
This is a War
One Woman Man
Under the Bridge
War of Nerves