Spice Girls prepare to kick off world tour

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LONDON -- Britain's Spice Girls kick off a world tour in Vancouver on Sunday, hoping they can live up to the months of hype surrounding the return of "girl power."

The sassy quintet best known by their nicknames -- Posh, Baby, Sporty, Ginger and Scary -- were one of the biggest bands of the 1990s, selling a total of 55 million albums worldwide and trading on their self-assertive style and street fashion.

But their success was short-lived, with Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell walking out on the band in 1998, just four years after it was formed. The remaining band members went their separate ways after releasing the album "Forever" in 2000.

The Spice Girls have sold more than 750,000 tickets for their 40-date world tour, according to reports, and more dates may yet be added.

Recent demand for their music, however, has been disappointing, with their recent charity single "Headlines" selling only a few thousands copies in its first week and their "Greatest Hits" album failing to reach number one in Britain.

"All of them have been dismayed by the fact that their first single, 'Headlines,' has been a flop," reported the Daily Mail newspaper, which like other tabloids has focused on what it said were strained relations between the band members.

Each Spice Girl is expected to make as much as 10 million pounds from the tour and spinoff ventures, including advertising and record releases.

But at the time of the reunion announcement in June, the band members were talking about fans, not finances.

"For me it's about celebrating the past, enjoying each other, it's about our fans," Halliwell, renown for wearing a tight pair of Union Jack hotpants, said at a London news briefing. "It felt the right time -- it's kind of now or never."

The band will tour the world in a Virgin Atlantic 747 jet, running an online competition for fans to choose the name of the plane -- "Spice One," "Girl Power" or "Spice Girl" -- while designer Roberto Cavalli has designed their stage costumes.

All now in their 30s with a combined seven children, the singers embarked on solo careers with varying degrees of success after the end of the band that coined the phrase "girl power" to encourage young women to be more self-confident.

Victoria "Posh" Beckham has maintained the highest profile since the band broke up, helped by superstar soccer-playing husband David, appearances at fashion shows and her 'A'-list celebrity pals including Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

The Spice Girls, comprising Beckham, Halliwell, Melanie ("Sporty") Chisholm, Melanie ("Scary") Brown and Emma ("Baby") Bunton, formed in 1994 after an advertisement for a girl band was posted.

Their debut single "Wannabe" was a global hit in 1996, and the success of their first album "Spice" the same year was compared to that enjoyed by the Beatles in their prime.

They scored nine number ones in the U.K. singles chart, including "2 Become 1" and "Spice Up Your Life," while "Headlines" was the band's only single to miss the U.K. top 10.
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