I went to Margaret Court Arena last night for the craic (from the Urban dictionary – Irish word for fun/enjoyment that has been brought into the English language. usu. when mixed with alcohol and/or music.). I did not really expect to be impressed or sonically stimulated, but I will be honest and say, I enjoyed myself immensely.
Boyzone are on their farewell tour, appropriately named “Thank you and Goodnight”. Calling it a day after 25 years in the business, this is actually their first time playing in Australia. And by the look of the excitement of the audience made up almost entirely of ladies in their late 30’s, early 40’s (and a surprising number of Grannies), it has come not a moment too soon.
Opening for the Boyz, was one Brian McFadden (formerly of the slightly later but no less successful Irish boy band, Westlife). I say one, as he cut a very solitary figure on the big stage at MCA entirely by himself. It was clear that this show was not going to include instruments or live musicians. Brian began by thanking us for coming to see “some fat Irish guy and a backing track”. And that set the tone for his set, as much standup comedy as musical performance. It is appropriate that this gig was happening during the Melbourne Comedy Festival as Brian is friggin’ hilarious. He gave us a set of 7 songs to a backing tape and 2 accompanying himself on guitar, made up of old Westlife hits (Swear it Again, Queen of my Heart, Flying without Wings) and a couple of tracks from a new album, not yet released in Australia (Champagne and Wine sounded very “lounge band” to me but I really liked Cigarettes and Coffee which was very soulful). Even though I lived in the UK when Westlife were omnipresent, I can’t say I remember much about their vocals. But Brian has got a fantastic voice. Very soulful with a lovely raspy quality. This mixed with his self-deprecating humor, made him really adorable to watch.
After a short break filled with classic 90’s dance tunes, the lights dimmed and on the big screen, an artfully shot black and white film of Boyzone started playing. The landscape was rocky and wind swept and inexplicably, Excalibur sat protruding from a stone in the foreground. The in-between song patter was awesome. They took it in turns to take the front of the stage between songs and chat about their long careers, their families and life in general. Very endearing.
Boyzone have a lot of hits to choose from (6 UK number 1’s to be exact and 9 in Ireland). They began with a few lesser known tracks before launching into a series of covers that have done very well for them. Baby Can I Hold You (made famous by Tracy Chapman, which reached number 2 for Boyzone), You Needed Me (Anne Murray from the 70’s. Scarily, I could remember every word) and Father and Son (Cat Stevens). Playing in the background during some of these songs were the original videos which really brought home what babies they were when they burst on the scene in 1994. And also brought home that there is one of the original members missing.
The guys disappeared for a costume change and during this time, a film was played honouring Stephen Gately who passed away in 2009. It featured the remaining members talking about him and his passing. You hear a lot of bands talk about how their bandmates are like brothers, usually just before a catastrophic split involving lawyers and public recriminations. But this all seemed so bloody genuine and heartfelt, that even an old hardened cynic such as myself was moved. The first song after this small break was Dreams which honoured Stephen with a floor lit spot representing his spirit and with his brothers gathered around it, it was really quite sweet.
Words (Bee Gees cover) gave them their first UK no. 1 song and got the ladies out of their seats with phones and glow sticks in the air. No Matter What was a song that Stephen sang the lead vocal in, and this time the lead part was taken by their female backup singer.
Prior to them leaving the stage for the obligatory encore build up, Shane started inviting members of the crowd up on stage for a group selfie. Ending up with a group of 20 or so punters, including the group of Dublin girls who were, to put it mildly, wetting themselves with excitement.
The encore consisted of Life is a Rollercoaster (a Ronan Keating solo monster hit) and Picture of You. One last group hug in the middle of the stage and they were off.
So, having come into this gig with really, no expectation, I ended up having great craic. Boyzone has always been parent pleasers, it seems. They must have been featured on every Mother’s Day compilation CD from 1994 to present and the Grannies present tonight, were probably parents of Boyzone fans in their heyday and had come to see if that Ronan Keating was as lovely in real life as he is as a judge on X Factor. And lovely they were. They may have even got me out of my seat for a dance during the encore, thank you Boyzone.
Review Contributed by Wendy Smith