When five become four (again): the Spice Girls have announced a 2019 tour without founding member Victoria Beckham.
Melanie Chisholm, Melanie Brown, Emma Bunton and Geri Horner (née Halliwell) will commence a six-date UK tour on 1 June 2019 at Manchester Etihad stadium with support from Jess Glynne.
In a video announcing the reunion, they made no mention of their missing bandmate. A press release stated that Beckham – who has often displayed a self-awareness about her lack of natural musical talent – is concentrating on her fashion label, a career that has arguably given her the greatest post-pop success of any Spice Girls member.
“Being in the Spice Girls was a hugely important part of my life and I wish my girls so much love and fun as they go back on tour,” Beckham said in a statement. “I know they will put on an amazing show and the fantastic fans past and present are going to have a wonderful time!”
Brown recently attended a Halloween party dressed as Beckham, holding up a sign that read: “No I am not going on tour.” She was joined by boyfriend Gary Madatyan dressed as David Beckham, who held a sign that said: “Please, please, please do it for the Spice Girls fans.”
It will be the second time the band has toured with a reduced membership. Horner quit the Spice Girls in May 1998 prior to the group’s first North American tour, which they completed without her. She rejoined the group in 2007 for their first reunion tour and a greatest hits collection that contained one new song, Headlines (Friendship Never Ends).
The five-piece reunited for a one-off performance at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Further reunion tours have been rumoured ever since: in February 2018, the five held a meeting and indicated that they intended to work on new projects together.
Mel B and Gary Madatyan – dressed as Victoria and David Beckham – attend Heidi Klum’s Halloween party in New York, 31 October 2018. Photograph: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
In May, Brown said that all five original members had signed on to work with former manager Simon Fuller. They began working with Fuller in 1995 after firing the father-son management team of Chris and Bob Herbert that put the group together in 1994. The group fired Fuller – who co-ordinated their many lucrative commercial partnerships – in November 1997 and took control of their affairs.
The band’s members have pursued a variety of projects since going on hiatus in 2000. Each of them has released solo music: Beckham had the shortest-lived musical career while Chisholm continues to release music under her own name. Brown has been a judge on the British version of the X Factor, among other TV talent shows. Bunton is a presenter on radio station Heart London and was recently announced as host of the US version of the Great British Bake Off. Horner has written children’s books and been a judge on Australia’s Got Talent.
The news of their reunion has provoked a mixed response. “Last time they toured, it felt as if there was unfinished business to sort out, particularly as it was the full lineup,” said Popjustice editor Peter Robinson. “But after that massive tour and the release of new music a few years ago, I wonder what really remains unfinished in 2018.”
The Spice Girls at the Cannes film festival in 1997. Photograph: Neil Munns/PA
Robinson suggested that the best way for the group to have sustained their legacy would have been an international TV talent search to find the new Spice Girls. “I’d assume, with Simon Fuller involved, that this will be part of the rollout in the coming months.”
Broadcaster and author Miranda Sawyer suggested that the group’s ages (between 42 and 46) could be a motivation for the reunion. “They’ve hit middle age and that’s when you question the whole of your life,” said Sawyer, who wrote a book on middle age called Out of Time. “You look at your ‘legacy’ – and this happens to everyone, the Spice Girls or not – and think, what have I done with my life? And if the biggest thing you ever did was in your 20s, you may want to revisit that period.”
That, said Sawyer, was the likely reason for Beckham’s non-participation. “The biggest and most important thing in her life is her family and her career – she has absolutely moved on and is having another life.”
David Sinclair, author of the biography Wannabe: How the Spice Girls Reinvented Pop Fame, agreed that the group might want to relive former glories. “There must be a terrible feeling of loss that they were such a global phenomenon at a certain moment, but it didn’t last that long. They were in a little bubble for a few years and it really was just whipped away. There must be a very strong urge to go back and recover that.”
On the red carpet for the premiere of Spiceworld the Movie, 15 December 1997. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA
Lauren Bravo, author of the new book What Would the Spice Girls Do: How the Girl Power Generation Grew Up, said she was not surprised by their comeback. “It takes 15 or 20 years for things to come back around again: the shops are full of revived 90s trends. Nineties kids had the feeling that all the important radical pop culture had happened before we were born – we were told that everything we had was a pallid rehash of the 60s and 70s – so it is nice to look back and think, that was important.”
BBC Radio 1 presenter Clara Amfo often plays Spice Girls songs on her mid-morning weekday show and said they always receive a positive response. She welcomed the tour. “Do I think they should bring out a brand-new album and singles? I lean towards no. It’s all about celebration and nostalgia – I don’t think they’re coming for Little Mix’s wigs. They know they’re the elder stateswomen of the pop sphere.”
Many of today’s pop musicians who were children during the Spice Girls’ heyday have cited them as an influence, from Adele to British avant-garde pop star Charli XCX and Danish singer MØ. The Spice Girls’ “girl power” message has also been cited as a cornerstone of many millennials’ grounding in feminism.
“The band are relevant in the sense that girl power lives on in a generation of women who were introduced to a very basic interpretation of feminism two decades before books on the topic became the ultimate middle-class stocking filler,” said Robinson.
Kicking off their reunion tour in Vancouver, 2 December 2007. Photograph: Lyle Stafford/Reuters
Sawyer acknowledged that some people are “snotty” about their conception of feminism. “I understand why, but I think if you are a young girl and someone says ‘girl power’ to you, that is very important. Their idea that your girlfriends might be more important than the boys you were meant to be attracting is still quite a fundamental point really.”
Said Bravo: “They gave us permission to be outspoken – ‘gobby’ was a word that was often flung around – and angry, and have an opinion whether or not we were considered qualified. That’s something we’re still struggling with today: who’s doing it right, who’s doing it wrong? They were criticised for being too brash, too commercial, but the fact that they were commercial and successful meant they reached a young audience, and that was their power.”
Dazed digital editor Aimee Cliff questioned whether the Spice Girls’ “Thatcher-endorsing brand of girl power” would hold up. “Their patriotism and Union Jack-waving would feel hollow and Brexit-esque. Their unrelenting optimism would be at odds with a more cynical audience, and a bleaker time for the UK in general. Relevant? Maybe not. But the bangers are forever.”
• Tickets for the tour go on sale at 10.30am on 10 November. The Spice Girls will perform at:
1 June 2019: Manchester Etihad stadium
3 June: Coventry Ricoh stadium
6 June: Sunderland Stadium of Light
8 June: Edinburgh BT Murrayfield stadium
10 June: Bristol Ashton Gate stadium
15 June: London Wembley stadium