So Pop review: The late ’90s laid on thick

So Pop
Qudos Bank Arena, February 1

★★★

The late 1990s are officially old enough to come back again.

Aqua proved to have more to offer than just the pestilent Barbie Girl.Credit:Rick Clifford

Or at least that's what a near-capacity arena suggested at this festival of guilty pleasures from the peak CD era. Five hours of pop so cheesy and saccharine-sweet, it took the garage rock revival of the early-aughts to wash it away first time around.

But there was plenty of fun to be had here, half of it in watching this crowd of mostly thirty-somethings dressing and acting like they were back at their school disco.

A roll call of one-hit wonders got them moving early on. Life must be like Groundhog Day for trio Mr President (Coco Jamboo), duo The Outhere Brothers (Boom Boom Boom) or Lou Bega (Mambo No.5), but they all delivered their calling cards with gusto, despite the use of backing tracks and dancing girls keeping them at the level of hyped-up karaoke.

A couple of slightly more enduring Eurodance acts were next in 2 Unlimited, whose veteran rapper Ray Slijngaard and superb singer Kim Verouwen struggled to be heard over the face-melting bass of bangers like Get Ready For This, while Eiffel 65 charmed thanks to the booming voice and avuncular stage presence of frontman Jeffrey Jey.

His leading of a singalong to Avicii's Without You, in tribute to the late DJ, had nothing to do with the '90s but was this night's one reflective moment – certainly more so than Eiffel 65's still-baffling chart-topper, I'm Blue (Da Ba Dee), no matter how much conviction Jey put in to its nonsense.

Celebrating the time when Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys bestrode the earth, a couple of second-division exemplars in Ireland's B*Witched and England's Blue were next.

The Dublin girl group was a bit lacklustre, a pointless ABBA medley and fair-to middling ballads marking time before the still-irresistible C'est La Vie, complete with Riverdance moves.

While Keavy Lynch took most of B*Witched's leads, Blue shared out the declamation duties and managed to lift of-their-time R&B ditties like All Rise, even though no musical instrument beyond a DJ deck had yet graced the So Pop stage. Blue's acapella harmony at the end of Too Close was this night's musical highlight.

The unabashed trashiness of Vengaboys was next, their mix of Boney M hooks, Ibiza beats and Village People wardrobe keeping the crowd enthused.

But it was a relief to finally see some drums, guitars and a pink keyboard appear for Aqua. Denmark's biggest pop export proved they were more than 1997's pestilent Barbie Girl, even if Rene Dif's gruff "let's go party" exhortations remain an acquired taste.

Those who began leaving after Aqua played its megahit early on missed gems like the joyful Doctor Jones and anthemic Cartoon Heroes, with Lene Nystrom's enduringly girlish voice and uniform of bikini and space boots adding to the spectacle.

With between-set interludes from DJ Nick Skitz and the presenters of Network Ten's '90s cartoon show Cheez TV, So Pop did enough to establish itself as a nostalgia brand for Generation Y.

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