The most successful girl-group in the world launch their eleventh studio album, In Stereo, with intimate dates and a Q&A with the fans. And it’s every bit as fabulously raucous as you’d hope.
Following the hugely successful Original Line-Up Tour, which saw Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin reunite with Siobhan Fahey for sold out shows around the world, including numerous nights at Hammersmith Apollo and a stop off at Hyde Park, you could be forgiven for wondering how Bananarama would continue. As a duo they’d toured relentlessly, but it had been a decade since their last album release — 2009’s part covers album, part new dance numbers, Viva. Did the world need a new Bananarama studio album?
Fortunately, and as is the norm for that sort of question, the girls didn’t worry about the answer, and joined forces with old friend Ian Masterson to write and record this year’s In Stereo. And thank God they did. The ten track collection is a treasure chest of sophisticated dance/pop anthems, including industrial synth-pop buzz track Dance Music, funk-fuelled lead-single Stuff Like That (Radio 2 A-listed for a month) and Love In Stereo, a shimmering Richard X production originally recorded by Sugababes’ sort-of spin-off MKS, but never released.
To launch the album — top 10 in the physical, vinyl and indie charts — the girls’ are doing their first ever album launch shows. A series of dates that incorporate a Q&A with a setlist that focuses on the new material and the fan favourites. It’s the sort of show that some followers of bands can only ever dream of… But with a large dose of sass, and an Ab Fab sense of humour — a likeness that was referenced in the questions more than once — Bananarama took to the stage to answer an unfiltered wad of queries from the fans:
— What do you think of Boy George? “He’s lovely. The worst thing he ever did was style us, for the Shy Boy cover.”
— Would you ever do a Bananarama Gogglebox? “Absolutely. We often say that when we’re watching TV together.”
— Will you be staying around at Glastonbury after your set? “We’re playing on the Sunday, so maybe afterwards… if the weather’s not too bad.” (This was my question — nice little spoiler that they’re playing the Sunday, although if they clash with Miley or Kylie so help me God…)
— Would you ever do Eurovision? “No. Why would you want to be the British representation for Eurovision?!”
— What song from the ‘80s do you wish you’d written? “Save A Prayer (by Duran Duran). Beautiful song.”
As well as highlighting why Bananarama stans love Bananarama, these 45 minutes also highlighted the close relationship the bands have with their fans and friends — whether namechecking Normski for his tattoos, allowing on-stage selfies, or shouting out to Sara’s daughter Alice when the answer related to her (…or when Keren’s hair fell flat). It’s also worth pointing out that 40 minutes of the Q&A was spent answering questions about temporary member Jacqui, which Sara and Keren took in good humour. It’s fair to say there are few stand-up shows in the city who’d have received half as many laughs as this double act.
After exiting for a costume change (and a Stoli-Bolli no doubt), the girls’ kicked off a tour-de-force of tracks concentrating on their three most recent albums. Love Don’t Live Here Anymore (with a dramatic, Madonna-esque, choral intro) opens the show, before In Stereo tracks take over, and by track two and the power-house chorus of I’m On Fire the entire crowd are singing along. Not bad for a track released a week ago. More obscure fan favourites Every Shade Of Blue and Feel For You receive rapturous applause, and greatest hits aren’t forgotten, with slightly reworked versions of Cruel Summer, Venus and Love In The First Degree breaking up the high-energy bangers.
But just three ‘80s songs from the most successful girl group from that decade (and all time, as it goes)? Leaving out the rest is a brave move, but one that this band knows it can back up with quality material from their new album, and the two that preceded it. Their Mighty Hoopla and Glastonbury appearances will no doubt be celebrations of their most well-known tracks, but attendees from this tour will already be counting down until their next chance to get up close and personal with the original girlband, still delivering the goods over three decades later.