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Monday, August 23, 1999 Published at 22:03 GMT 23:03 UK


Mel C: Who do you think you are?

Mel C's identity problem: Does she want to be a pop, punk or rock star?

By BBC News Online's Darryl Chamberlain

So there you have it, Sporty Spice Mel C's second live appearance in three days, after her debut at Sheffield's sweaty Leadmill club last week.

It looked like it would be a baptism of fire - the V99 festival also had the likes of the Manic Street Preachers on the bill, along with guitar-rock stalwarts Shed Seven, Travis, and Kula Shaker.

But it was an easier ride than you'd think at first sight.

V99 - held simultaneously over two sites in northern and southern England - is one of the UK's newer festivals.

[ image: Struggle: Mel C works the V99 festival crowd]
Struggle: Mel C works the V99 festival crowd
The southern leg is held over two days in a park near Chelmsford, Essex, a few miles outside London. Saturday's line-up play on Sunday at the northern site at Weston Park, Staffordshire, and vice-versa.

So rather than attracting the alternative tribes of Glastonbury or the rock fans of Reading, many of the crowd were day-trippers from the capital.

But the nerves were showing as Melanie Chisholm bounded uncertainly onto the stage, wearing a top bearing the words "White Trash".

She shouted "Come On!" and bounced around performing her first song - an anonymous soft-rock number.

Sticking to her Spice Girls roots, she performed to the cameras rather than the stage.

The odd can flew through the air at her, but the spectacle of a girl group millionairess lurching around on stage like a wannabe Alanis Morissette was diverting enough.

[ image: Mel C's low-key solo debut in Sheffield last week]
Mel C's low-key solo debut in Sheffield last week
Her nerves faded as she started her second song, Ga Ga - more entertaining, but again, anonymous soft rock - began. Her voice was strong, and by the end of the song she addressed the crowd: "You didn't expect to see me up here, did you?"

Some people might not like the idea, she said, "but I don't give a f*** - my band's wicked - if you think I'm s***". Blimey, she can sing, dance and swear! Whatever next?

A ballad came next - she didn't introduce her songs - and her debut single Going Down followed. Engaging pop music, but despite Mel's plea, nobody jumped around.

But the couple behind me, who looked like they'd never be seen dead at a pop festival, nodded their heads in approval, and everybody seemed happy enough,

People did begin to jump around as a piano pop stomper burst out and Mel was starting to look impressive. The lads next to me began dancing like Status Quo in mock tribute. She was starting to impress.

[ image: 1999: It wasn't this hard with the Spice Girls]
1999: It wasn't this hard with the Spice Girls
Then she blew it - her cover of Anarchy In The UK met with gales of laughter.

"I am the Anti-Christ, I am Sporty Spice, I do what I like..." she sang, and more cans flew in from the crowd. Rather than spit Johnny-Rotten-style at the crowd, she shut her eyes and battled bravely on.

Nobody seemed too sure what to make of her from then on and before long it was "thank you very much, have a good'un!" and she was off. There were no calls for an encore.

Sure, it was an entertaining performance, and Mel's personality saw her through, but what would she do against a really hostile crowd to convince them she isn't just another rich pop star with an eye for the main chance?

Bland soft-rock isn't going to impress them - and swearing and embarrassing Sex Pistols covers won't give her credibilty.

She could make a refreshing UK alternative to Sheryl Crow or Alanis but judging by her solo career so far - duets with Bryan Adams and other 1980s pop stars in Los Angeles, plus Sex Pistols covers - it's hard to know what she wants to be.

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