The Spice Girls: cake fights and catty talk – what could be better? | Rebecca Nicholson

As nostalgia tours go, this could hardly have been bettered

Spice World – 2019 is, it turns out, only the group’s fourth proper concert tour. Today’s young pop hoofers, who never seem to be off the road or away from the endless churn of the promo rota, must be wondering with some envy how the Spice Girls managed that Beatlesesque feat of live shyness.

Thankfully, despite some “sound problems” on the first few dates that muted vocals (perhaps they programmed the stage set-up assuming Victoria would be back), they seem to have given fans what they really, really want. This is a nostalgia tour and everyone is up for it.

A willing audience for nostalgia, though, is no guarantee that all will go swimmingly. Cheryl (“Just Cheryl”), formerly of Girls Aloud, told the BBC last week that “the bubble had popped” when it came to their own reunion tour in 2013 and that “there were some underlying issues between us that had never been addressed, sadly”.

Nostalgia tours can also be a drag for the audience when there is a contrast between what an act perceive as their own artistic purpose and what the audience expects from a bloody good night out, which is bangers and dancing. The inevitable “here are some new songs” interlude can be a buzzkill of catastrophic proportions.

I once saw Fleetwood Mac tearing the roof off an arena for more than an hour with their greatest hits, before announcing that they’d be playing some new stuff, at which point around two-thirds of the crowd snaked off up the stairs to go and get a drink.

Reports from the Spice tour (my own nostalgia for the innocence of the word “spice”, now so tainted, must be what homophobes feel like when they get cross that “gay” doesn’t mean “happy” any more) suggest that the four-piece have embraced nostalgia with impressive attention to detail.

Mel B, in particular, is truly going for it and footage from their Manchester show has been a stunning recreation of an earlier time. On her birthday, “Scary” Mel B reminded the audience that Geri first left the group on her birthday, in 1998. “You’d better not leave tonight,” she said, calling her bandmate a rude name. Then they threw cake at each other, while Emma Bunton hid under an umbrella and Mel C requested that they keep the costumes clean.

Victoria’s dry wit was missed (she was the breakout comic star of Spice World: The Movie), but some passive-aggressive patter and a food fight is how you really sell a tour.

Francis Lam: let them eat avocado, it’s no laughing matter

Francis Lam
Francis Lam: staunch defender of a mashup. Photograph: Jesse Dittmar/Redux/eyevine

In an interview with Grub Street, the food writer and broadcaster Francis Lam suggested it might be time to end the bashing of avocado on toast or, more accurately, the bashing of those who eat it.

“I’m tired of hearing people shit on avocado toast,” he said, conjuring an unfortunate mental image. “I’m tired of people feeling like the thing they want to do in food isn’t OK.”

Over the past couple of years of unsuccessfully trying to avoid listening to Radio 4 comedy, I’ve noticed that mentioning avocado has become lazy shorthand for either “feckless millennial wasting their money” or “young person stuff”.

Wherever the word “hipster” goes “avocado” is sure to follow and nobody seems willing to give up either gag. Lam’s point is about food snobbery more than anything and I’m aware that adding my voice to any avocado sentiment in these hallowed pages is asking for the kind of pain that usually accompanies a slip of the knife on the stone. But surely some other food, such as jackfruit or seitan, is ripe for its moment in the comedy sun.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge: actually, Fleabag never got her kit off

Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Phoebe Waller-Bridge: ‘Fleabag’s frankness was in the telling, not showing.’ Photograph: Matt Crossick/PA

I’ve mentioned it before, but reading the celebrity-on-celebrity interview can be thankless. No, you’re great. No, you are! etc, and repeat. But the famous people roundtable can be a glorious exception. Every year, the Hollywood Reporter gathers people of note in themed groups to a fancy photoshoot and a discussion that covers their area of expertise. For some reason, the group setting seems to dilute the artsy loftiness of a one-on-one chat and I always look forward to it.

The participants in this year’s comedy actress roundtable were basically my browsing history brought to life. Tiffany Haddish, Natasha Lyonne, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jane Fonda, Maya Rudolph, Alex Borstein and Regina Hall came together to discuss comedy, autonomy and on-screen nudity.

Asking famous women about taking their clothes off on camera is not unexplored territory, but hearing a group of them talk about it among themselves brought a welcome perspective. The discussion is as nuanced as it is funny and folds in age and power, but the takeaway is that, well, it depends.

“If you can’t really tell why you’ve got your tits out, you’re probably in the wrong scene,” said Waller-Bridge, who had to point out to Rudolph that she was not, in fact, nude at any point during Fleabag, a little-known show that nobody ever bothers to write about, especially here, but only showed “my back and shoulders and arms and face”. Contrary to the advice given to any writer, Fleabag’s frankness was in the telling, not showing.

In the context of a discussion about nudity, the fact that people didn’t seem to notice a lack of it is quite something.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist


Rebecca Nicholson

The GuardianTramp

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