Live Music + Gig Reviews

Mini Viva @ Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London

16 September 2009

A curious clutch of girl groups have sprung up, seemingly out of nowhere, vying for space in the charts.

But while the likes of Girls Can’t Catch and the Dolly Rockers struggle to find a route into the Top 10, 20-year-old Brit girls Mini Viva have found themselves ahead of the pack with not only a huge media presence, but also with a debut single, Left My Heart In Tokyo, charting at Number 7.

As they shape up to be the poster-girls of the next phase of the Xenomania production house’s mission for pop domination, and with part of the Xenomania manifesto placed on live performances, trendy Hoxton played host to a celebratory gig.

As part of the host bar’s Gold Dust night and ahead of the main act, currently unsigned Bluey Robinson filled a nicely placed support slot. Showing a lot of promise to an audience littered with record industry types, he didn’t exactly blow everyone away, but his mid-tempo soulful style managed to draw in a largely unfamiliar crowd and he should find himself with a record deal sooner rather than later.

Soon after Bluey left the stage, the girls bounced onto it. Employing a confident tactic, they launched straight into Tokyo, getting their only familiar song out of the way from the off. It was a bold move that could only be pulled off if the girls had similarly strong material to come. But while Tokyo isn’t the perfect pop song, it does have a storming chorus and is there to be enjoyed. Nothing that followed quite reached its high.

We had Hooked, a decent enough tune, and we had neat lyrical flourishes (“I took one step at a time, you took two steps out of line”), but the songs didn’t excite. Xenomania have demonstrated with so much of their output that their best work is the stuff that breaks the rulebooks, playing with song structures and toying with the listener’s expectations of commercial pop. But there weren’t really any surprises tonight.

The girls themselves impressed vocally, although Frankee would be wise to steer clear of the temptation to rap as she comes over more Alesha Dixon than Lil’ Kim. With her explosively permed hair dyed blonde and dressed in glittery top and hotpants, she certainly looks the part, as does her similarly glam bandmate Britt. The girls have a great chemistry, dancing with and working off each other to create a presence on stage.

Fifth song I Wish finally brought with it the kind of impact that hadn’t been heard since they started. An upbeat danceable number, it picks up where their single leaves off, and even Mr Xenomania himself Brian Higgins could be spotted singing along. Unfortunately, while this finally felt like a new beginning for the gig, it was actually the end and, as it tailed off, the girls left the stage.

On the basis of the material on offer tonight, Mini Viva’s ridiculously attractive and likeable persona will more likely be a pleasant minor diversion, rather than the game-changing force the hype machine is claiming.

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Mini Viva @ Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London