The four girls arrive in Manila on a Thursday and they are welcomed with summer rain, one that continues until their performance night. Friday nights in Manila are always met with dread and anticipation, a mix of anguish because you know getting anywhere is going to be a pain but the weekend is finally here—so that makes everything alright. That Little Mix is performing on this particular night, however, is what makes everything more than alright.
Outside the venue, Kia Theatre, fans who unfortunately didn’t get to score tickets for the concert are screaming under the rain in high hopes of getting a glimpse of the quartet showing the intensity of teenage devotion. This reverence is consistent throughout the evening as the sea of young girls obliged when the girls ask the crowd to sing along, chant girl mantras, dance with them, or even silence down.
The audience goes berserk the moment the four step on stage with a fittingly outrageous opening number in their 2015 single, 'Grown'. It’s a song that elicits screams of glee and loud gasps because its lowkey raciness. It begs you to question what the mothers littered around the place are going to think. Is Little Mix even a good role model for young girls? But they spend the rest of the evening singing songs that young girls ought to be listening to.
They continue with 'Move', 'Hair', and 'Change Your Life'—a trilogy in taking charge stating that that when you like a guy, you make it known; if the guy is a pain, you get rid of him; and if your life is looking for a bit of tweaking, you go and change it. And they do it in a fashion that’s absolutely in style to anyone who still growing out body parts, and figuring out the difference herself and girls with shinier hair.
But to declare that the night was all about girl power would be as dumb as pointing out the seven colors of the rainbow. Empowering women has always been what girl groups were about. In the era of girl squads, you ask about the necessity of Little Mix. But what seems to set Little Mix apart from the rest is the undeniable sincerity that glues them together.
Think of Destiny’s Child and you think of Beyonce. You think of the Spice Girls, and Geri Halliwell is the first on your mind. The Pussycat Dolls has always been about Nicole Scherzinger. Even Little Mix’s contemporary, Fifth Harmony, suggests Camilla Cabello as its main girl. Somehow, girl groups always formed itself as pyramids, with one girl on top with the rest as a supporting cast. But Little Mix is probably only rivaled by indie rock trio HAIM, because when the curtains fall down, Leigh-Ann, Jade, Jesy, and Perrie are not just friends—they are sisters.
Chemistry can be fabricated but sisterhood can’t be, so it still baffles me that only five years ago, these four girls were aiming for solo success through the X Factor. But through some divine hand, they were thrown together. I’m personally not a believer of fate but from their very first performance you can tell that they were meant to be. You travel back to today and you hear them sing Little Me and Secrete Love Song, hardly requiring anything else but a spotlight and their voices.
Being a good singer doesn’t always make you good at harmonies but all of them shine as they take turns singing solo parts, and weaving through each other’s voices. Jesy is a big sister in and out of the stage, with a voice that stands as the platform everyone relies on. Jade and Leigh-Anne, take care of Little Mix’s signature sweetness, with voices that are strong as they easy on the ears. Perrie, on the other hand, wows with her low register that adds spunk to the group’s singing. It was such as shame that they decided to skip Boy, a track from their 2013 sophomore album Salute (2013), which I believe to be the song that best showcases their talent.
They charm everyone in the room when they cover 'Crazy In Love', 'Where Are U Now', and most especially 'Hotline Bling'. It’s a fascinating break from their set of original songs because it shows a little inventiveness in the way Little Mix’s personalities prevail as they giggle, and chat up one another and the audience.
I notice the night drawing to a close and I think that I’ve found my favourite of the night: 'Lightning'. It’s a polarizing track that covers energy levels from ground zero to a hundred. I always knew that it was a good song, but seeing Lightning performed live affirms what I’ve always thought of Little Mix: this group was designed to be seen live. Time and again, we have songs that don’t seem to make its meant impact on record but instead, finds its soul and identity within a space wherein the energy you’re giving is reciprocated right back with every note and move.
The talent of Little Mix has always been a given—an ubiquitous fact even, but seeing them live makes me wonder why Little Mix is not bigger than they actually are. I look around me and the place is filled to the brim, no seat is left open. Everyone in this room is in love with Little Mix, including me and the male photographer seated beside me who has been singing to every song this evening. The theatre seats exactly 2,385 people and you wonder why this concert isn’t being held in a bigger venue. Am I missing something here?
They leave the stage and say their thanks but the crowd screams, “Black Magic!” repeatedly, in unison. I join in. I won’t let them end the evening without singing this Little Mix staple. This is probably the only time I’ll be seeing them live. Like most girl groups, there’s an expiration date and the eventuality of breaking up is only a matter of when. But for tonight, Little Mix is here and everyone in this hall is the 5th mixer. Maybe it’s the rest of the world who’s missing out something.
Little Mix - The Get Weird Tour - Live in Manila is a production by Midas Promotions.
The Sam Willows and Little Mix