Girls Aloud reveal details of ‘enormous, magical’ reunion tour

Pop group Girls Aloud have announced a massive reunion tour for 2024, bringing their 11-year break to an end.

Cheryl, Kimberley, Nadine and Nicola will hit the road in May, playing “all the hits” and “a few favourites of our own”, they said.

The shows will be dedicated to their former bandmate, Sarah Harding, who died of cancer in 2021.

“We’re going to do our absolute utmost to celebrate her in the most enormous, magical way,” says Nicola Roberts.

“For us, it will feel very much like she’s there,” adds Kimberley Walsh. “She came alive on stage. That was the happiest she ever was.”

But tabloid reports that the band have also recorded a new album and filmed a music video are untrue, they say.

“There is no new music and there is no video – although we’ve shot a commercial,” says Nadine Coyle.

“Making new music without Sarah would be odd,” confirms Cheryl. “But celebrating what we made together? Fabulous.”

Girls Aloud were formed 21 years ago on reality TV show Popstars: The Rivals. The format required that they be pitted against a “rival” boyband, One True Voice, with both acts competing for the Christmas number one.

All eyes were on the boys, but Girls Aloud blew them away with the eccentric, skittering drum-and-bass anthem Sound of the Underground.

They went on to score 20 more top 10 hits, including three further number ones and Brit Award-winning single The Promise.

Girls Aloud at the 2009 Brit AwardsIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
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The band received five Brit Award nominations, winning one – best single – for The Promise.

In an era of formulaic pop, they were a blast of fresh air. Their songs were ballsy, anarchic and defiantly anti-boredom – from the two-finger salute of No Good Advice to the melancholy beauty of Call The Shots.

They first parted ways in 2009 after playing Wembley Stadium with Coldplay, before reuniting for new music and a 10th anniversary tour in 2012-13.

A second reunion was planned to celebrate their 20th anniversary, but then Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer.

‘Not easy for us’

“It’s horrible that we’re in this situation,” says Nicola. “It’s not easy for us to sit and explain how we feel. It’s not going to be easy for us to put a show together with four people, instead of five.”

“It hasn’t felt right, until now, to do anything without her,” Cheryl says. “But now we feel strong enough, emotionally.”

Kimberley adds: “With grief, there’s definitely a shift where it’s like, OK, you’re ready to celebrate that person.”

The question of how they will rearrange the songs as a quartet remains unresolved. Nadine suggests at least some of Sarah’s original vocals will be used in the show.

“There’s so many things that are just iconically Sarah, that have to remain Sarah,” she says.

“We’re not going to mess with that. I’m not going to start taking over Sarah’s big bits. Girls Aloud wouldn’t be what it was without Sarah and everything she added to it.”

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Nicola says Sarah Harding was “like a firework” – a rabble-rousing cheerleader for the band.

All will be revealed when the tour kicks off in Dublin on 18 May.

Fifteen dates are currently planned in Belfast, Manchester, Cardiff, Newcastle, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Nottingham, Leeds, Birmingham, London and Liverpool.

“We’re going back on tour. How exciting is that?” Kimberley laughs.

Lyrical changes?

I meet Girls Aloud in their manager’s suburban London home. As I arrive, all four members are gossiping in the kitchen as tea is brewed and a terrier races around, scavenging for treats.

It’s a surprisingly domestic scene for a band whose image was built around spiky teenage defiance and wild nights out.

But time marches on: Kimberley and Cheryl recently hit their 40s, three of the band have children under the age of 10, and there’s a debate about whether some of their lyrics withstand scrutiny in 2024.

Nadine questions whether she’d still sing about “slipping into your girlfriend’s jeans” in the fan favourite Miss You Bow Wow.

And there’s a sharp intake of breath at the chorus of Wake Me Up: “You treat me rough to show me you care, and I just can’t refuse.

“You just want to karate chop somebody in the face for that,” says Nadine. “No way.”

“But that still goes on today,” says Cheryl. “Treat ’em mean to keep ’em keen, and ghosting people and stuff like that. There’s different interpretations of that lyric.”

“That is different. It’s depends on your perspective,” Nadine concedes.

Girls Aloud on the 2013 Ten TourIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
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The band’s last concert as a five-piece was in 2013

They begin to reminisce about the recording process, led by “mad professor” Brian Higgins and lyricist Miranda Cooper at a countryside mansion-slash-hit-factory in Kent.

Their approach was unique and intense. Songs weren’t written, they were pieced together like intricate jigsaws.

A single like Biology opens with a Chicago blues riff that morphs into a crescendoing succession of Euro-trance verses, followed by a stomping cheerleader chorus, before somehow reverting back to the original blues riff.

“Brian would literally pull together parts from five or six separate songs,” explains Nicola.

“So we’d have three verses to one backing track, four bridges for another song, and different five choruses. Then we’d sing all of those in four or five keys and Brian would pull it all together.”

“There were no rules,” says Cheryl.

“And Beyoncé does the same, by the way. She takes different parts of different tracks and pulls them together like an outfit.”

“It was funny, we’d chat between ourselves when the CD arrived. ‘Did you sing this bit? What happened to that verse?'” says Kimberley.

“There are songs that still stick in my head that never saw the light of day,” observes Nadine, who bursts into a discarded line from Wake Me Up: “Easy tiger/What’s been going on?

Cheryl suggests incorporating those missing fragments into their new live show, but almost immediately changes her mind.

“I think some people would get mad if they didn’t hear their favourite parts.”

Girls Aloud at the BBC's Maida Vale studios
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Girls Aloud at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios in 2012

The decision to tour was “surprisingly recent”, she says.

Kimberley, who has forged a successful career as a daytime TV presenter, turned down the idea as recently as last year. But a guest appearance with Nicola and Years and Years star Olly Alexander at this year’s Mighty Hoopla festival changed her mind.

“That was a bit of catalyst for me. I’ve been out of that world for quite a long time and getting up and performing with Nicola – and feeling the love for the band – was actually quite overwhelming.”

Out of the four, Nadine is the most match-ready, having recently completed a string of solo dates. Cheryl is starting fitness training this month “to build up my stamina”. Kimberley and Nicola have signed up for thrice-weekly pilates classes and physio.

Understandably, the thought of performing in heels is giving them the fear.

“I made one comment about my feet at the ad shoot and our choreographer went, ‘Don’t even think about it’,” laughs Kimberley.

“I was like, ‘Can’t we look at some boot options, maybe?'”

Whatever happens on the footwear front, fans will welcome them back with open arms.

Despite the Sun newspaper’s recent “frustrating” attempt to spoil their surprise, the band were reassured by people’s reaction.

“We felt such positivity back from it,” says Nicola.

“It was another confirmation of the outpouring of love we felt when Sarah died. It’s been so nice to feel we’re still in people’s hearts, and the music’s still alive.”

However, some audience members might be harder to impress: Their children.

When Cheryl showed old concert DVDs to six-year-old son Bear, he was not a fan.

“He says to me, ‘You look different, you sound different, this is weird. Why the nakedness? What’s with your voice?'” she laughs.

Nadine’s daughter Anaíya was similarly dismissive. “She’s never really liked any of the Girls Aloud stuff because I don’t smile enough, so I don’t look like myself to her.”

“They don’t think you should have existed before they were alive, that’s all it is,” says Kimberley, who has three sons.

“Mine are starting to get interested. People are saying stuff about Girls Aloud and they want to know what the fuss is about.

“But it’ll be weird for them. They’ll be coming to see us do something so different to normal. We usually just have playdates round at each other’s houses.”

“It will literally,” says Nicola, “be like the mums have turned into superheroes.”

Girls Aloud with director's chairs bearing the band-member's namesIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
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Nobody sees The Show until their heart says so

The Girls Aloud Show 2024 tour dates are:

  • Sat 18 May – 3Arena Dublin
  • Mon 20 May – SSE Arena Belfast
  • Thurs 23 & Fri 24 May – Manchester AO Arena
  • Mon 27 May – Cardiff Utilita Arena
  • Fri 31 May & Sat 1 June – Newcastle Utilita Arena
  • Tues 4 June – Aberdeen P&J Live
  • Sat 8 June – Glasgow OVO Hydro
  • Weds 12 June – Nottingham Motorpoint Arena
  • Sat 15 June – Leeds First Direct Arena
  • Tues 18 June – Birmingham Resorts World Arena
  • Sat 22 & Sun 23 June – London The O2
  • Sat 29 June – Liverpool M&S Bank Arena

A pre-sale will begin on Wednesday 29 November at 09:00 GMT, with the general on sale Friday 1 December at the same time.

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