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The Sugababes @ Wembley Arena, April 13

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The Sugababes @ Wembley Arena, April 13
Manufactured pop bands assembled like an Airfix kit and reliant on a hip production team may pull off some wonders in the studio, but playing live tends to show off their shortcomings. Surprisingly though, Keisha Buchanan, Heidi Range and latest recruit Amelle Berrabah - The Sugababes - have some serious lung power and dazzled the cavernous Wembley Arena with an impressive array of infectious pop songs.

The group's dynamic has launched a thousand gossip columns, but alas there were no signs of any slanging matches or handbags on stage. Keisha clearly wears the trousers in the band, at one point launching into a verbal tirade at the killjoy Wembley security men for ordering people to sit down during a ballad. Quite right she was too, for the band had worked hard to generate an atmosphere that was notably absent at the start.

It wasn't their fault though, for it boils down to the perils of modern day technology. Kicking off the gig with the stomping 'Red Dress', the arena should have been a hedonistic frenzy of flailing limbs clapping and dancing to the beat. Instead, the vast majority of the crowd near the front seemed to be peering through the viewfinders on their mobile phones or digital cameras in a bid to grab some pics or vids. Sadly, this helps to sap the energy out of the live experience.

Nonetheless, the blameless 'Babes smiled on and once the mobiles disappeared the audience could fully soak up hit after hit. The slower, sombre songs 'Stronger', 'Caught In a Moment' and 'Too Lost In You' were translated particularly well. Their epiphanic beauty was fully realised with the fragile, emotive nature of Heidi's voice and Keisha's powerful singing. For the choruses, the trio's voices blended perfectly with no weak link at all - a rarity for manufactured acts.

A medley of sublime album tracks 'Obsession' and 'Whatever Makes You Happy' was a well judged and welcome surprise, whilst earlier material from those tumultuous days from which only Keisha survives, such as 'Overload' and 'Run For Cover', seamlessly fitted in alongside later tracks.

It was a joy to hear their superb recent single 'Easy' live, given the salacious nature of their lyrics for such a kiddie-friendly band. "There's a landing strip clear for you at the airport," croons Heidi in apparent innocence. These angels have dirty minds, not faces, by the sound of things.

For a band that has shifted a phenomenal amount of records, it was a surprise to see significant areas at the back of the arena draped off through a lack of ticket sales. It seems the mass public might not take them seriously as a live act and the fact that the poor instrument players were segregated at the back of the stage (bar a brief acoustic section) doesn't help to address this perception.

As for the ladies themselves, they exuded professionalism - smiling, emoting and standing in the designated places, presumably honed through endless rehearsals. This does mean a sense of spontaneity is lacking. Still, if that's what you want then you could always check out Pete Doherty and his incredible weeping sores instead.

The Sugababes chose to close their triumphant show with 'Push The Button', but such is the strength of their back catalogue that so many of their tracks could make a worthy ending. Navigating through a sea of well-crafted, sassy pop songs, this trio may lack many of the qualities that draw people to concerts, but they sure put on an enjoyable show.

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