Boyzone – review

Arena, Leeds
There were synchronised jacket removals and earnest ballads aplenty – but newer, more reflective material suggests that Ronan Keating's boys have become men

Boyzone's Ronan Keating is rattling off tales about their lives and times as one of Europe's biggest-selling boybands, back in their 1990s heyday. There are unforgettable moments, he tells the audience, such as the times they got to play with Luciano Pavarotti and the Bee Gees. Less expected are revelations such as the one about the gig when Keith Duffy fell headlong through a hole in the floor. "It was just a stage he was going through," Keating observes, to roars of laughter. They'd never have been allowed to send themselves up like this in the old days, but here they are, celebrating their 20th anniversary with a No 6 album, BZ20, and an arena tour. "I can't believe we're still getting away with it," he says.

Unlike similarly reformed old rivals Take That, these Irishmen aren't singing middle-aged ballads to 20-metre robots. The adult Boyzone – should they now be called Menzone? – have tattoos and furrowed brows, but much of this is a boyband show in all but the members' ages. There are lingerie-clad dancers, too many covers and earnest ballads sung with hands on hearts. When the four men remove their jackets perfectly in unison, their still almost entirely female audience appear ready to spontaneously combust.

However, newer songs such as Love Will Save the Day and One More Song – about bandmate Stephen Gately, who died in 2009 aged 33 – suggest they are capable of mature reflection. In fact, the section devoted to him – significantly, the first boyband member to come out as gay – is unusually moving. "As human beings we don't have the capacity to deal with that," admits Duffy of their grief, and when a fresh-faced Gateley appears on screen singing "I'm meant to live before I die," there's barely a dry eye in the house.

They don't linger, though, and the show soon whisks back to big choruses and their first ever Christmas song, The Hour Before Christmas, so festive it virtually arrives by sleigh. There's another riotous moment when they haul a fan on stage and phone her stay-home husband: "It's the lads from Boyzone. We've kidnapped your wife." However, when Duffy admits their fans now are "the same ones that used to come and see us, and hopefully they bring their kids", he pinpoints their built-in obsolescence. Still, the ageless Keating is optimistic: "Here's to another 20 years."

• Did you catch this gig – or any other recently? Tell us about it using #Iwasthere


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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