Boyzone review – highs and lows revisited in an emotional farewell

SSE Hydro, Glasgow
The quintessential boyband, now in their 40s, sang, danced and had a laugh before a heartfelt tribute to the friend they lost

Whoever came up with the name Boyzone in 1993 – and the group being assembled from eager north Dublin wannabes has always been a key part of their origin story – was probably only thinking ahead five years or so. How else to explain that slangy, cheeky “z”? Yet after some early career highs and notably emotional lows (plus an eight-year career furlough in the 2000s), the archetypal Irish boyband have somehow endured.

A sixth and apparently final Boyzone album, Thank You and Goodnight, marked their 25th anniversary last year. Now the fortysomething man-gang of Ronan Keating, Keith Duffy, Mikey Graham and Shane Lynch are selling out arenas on a sentimental goodbye tour before retiring the Boyzone marque for ever.

Despite the quartet being framed by a gigantic screen beaming lyric videos and vintage footage of the band as fresh-faced youngsters, this is a refreshingly gimmick-free gig. Except for two glam back-up singers, there is no band on stage and at no point does a ’Zoner strap on an acoustic or slide behind a piano to underline their musical authenticity.

They just sing, do some clomping dance moves and have a laugh. The result is a weirdly pure boyband experience, one enhanced by still deafening screams, even if the audience intensity ramps up noticeably whenever they return to their 90s heyday with songs such as Isn’t It a Wonder and their beloved (if bland) cover of Cat Stevens’ Father and Son.

The centrepiece of the show is a tribute to founder member Stephen Gately, who died unexpectedly from a congenital heart defect in 2009. Dream, a new song featuring Gately vocals from a salvaged demo, is a swaying slice of clean-cut uplift that, performed from an island amid the crowd, serves as a fitting memorial.

After that sombre sojourn, the rest of the gig is a scramble to pack in more material from Boyzone’s imperial phase, climaxing in the easygoing, matey Motown of Picture of You. In the end, they seem to be having so much fun that it would be foolish to rule out a sneaky 30th-anniversary reunion.

• At M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool, 28 January. Then touring.


Graeme Virtue

The GuardianTramp

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