Sugababes review, Glastonbury 2024: Shoving them on West Holts was misguided at best, irresponsible at worst

The Sugababes’ set at Glastonbury, an unexpected must-see for, anecdotally at least, absolutely every person with a ticket, quickly became its own kind of hell. Signs near the West Holts stage urged latecomers to stay away due to overcrowding. Unverified reports say there were people fainting in the crowd.

This was pointless, easily avoidable chaos. In terms of current chart success or creativity at this particular moment in time, Sugababes may not be Pyramid stage material, but for many punters here they tick numerous boxes: nostalgia, bangers, brand recognition. Shoving them over on West Holts is misguided at best, irresponsible at worst.

On stage at least, the band appear to be having a blast. There’s something incredibly affecting about seeing this trio smile.

At the peak of their commercial zenith in the early Noughties, they were recognised and beloved for being pop’s grumpiest girl band – three moody teenagers so preternaturally jaded that it was sometimes less fun to watch them live as it was to speculate which one could beat you up the quickest. (Mutya, obviously. It was always Mutya.)

Nearly 25 years since their grungy, surf guitar-led debut “Overload” and in the wake of at least 30 different member line-ups (OK, like four), they hit the West Holts stage with the relieved, endearing joy of grown women who’ve seen all the destructive chaos of more than two decades in the music industry and come out glowing.

As a show, this contains a lot of synchronised strutting and member-specific spotlighting — each Sugababe (Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy) gets a turn at the centre of the stage, the others retreating to the back.


“Freak Like Me”, that seminal mash-up of Adina Howard’s 1995 namesake and Gary Numan’s “Are Friends Electric?”, lights the fuse with sexy-scary aplomb. Late-era bop “Red Dress” is a surprise highlight, the trio’s vocals cooing over electric guitar. Both “Overload” and the effervescent come-on “Push the Button” have long become generational classics. They send the crowd into rapture. Drums and a thunderous bass guitar transforms the slinky “Round Round” into a head-banger rock number.

The crowds at Sugababes’ performance on West Holts (BBC)
The crowds at Sugababes’ performance on West Holts (BBC)

It’s tempting to read into the fact that the far majority of the tracks here to elicit cheers didn’t originally feature Donaghy, while even Buena was gone by the time the group scored one of their biggest hits with the sunny “About You Now”, which wraps up the show.

But it doesn’t mean that the Sugababes brand is bigger than its individual members. Heidi Range, Amelle Berrabah and Jade Ewen — each currently living it up in the Potentially Acrimonious Resting Home for Ex-Sugababes — all had their place, but there’s something undeniably powerful about witnessing Buchanan and Buena, two of the coolest pop stars this country has ever produced, harmonising together again, whatever their respective involvement with the music.

Likewise to see Donaghy living up to the potential scuppered way back during album one when, amid band in-fighting and erratic teen hormones, she fled to less high-profile pastures. By the looks on their faces, they know this was a special show. Such a shame the crowd has to suffer for it.