Boyz become men

Boyz become men

Tis the season for mature boybands to drop by Singapore's shores. Earlier this month, it was Backstreet Boys from the United States. Last Saturday, it was Irish group Boyzone, who could not be more different from their American counterparts who started the same year they did, in 1993.

While the former were unabashedly dipping into their bag of 1990s tricks, with the pointing and smiling at the crowd and asking them to scream, the Boyzone concert - 18 years since their last one here - was a more grown-up affair.

The quartet of Shane Lynch, 38, Mikey Graham, 42, Keith Duffy, 40, and, most recognisably, Ronan Keating, 38, relied on smooth vocals and banter and also paid heartfelt tribute to their late band member, Stephen Gately, who died in 2009 at age 33 from a heart defect.

Despite their polished synchronised dance moves, the concert did not really reach levels of greatness, hovering on a comfortably lukewarm setting for most of its 90 minutes.

Most of the 1,800-strong crowd - largely adults in their 30s and older, with a smattering of grey-haired seniors - seemed content to toe-tap and sing along, resonating more with older hits such as Picture Of You and Bee Gees cover, Words, off the band's older albums, Where We Belong (1998) and A Different Beat (1996).

The band's crowd interaction seemed sincere, if safe. Still, the feel-good vibes rubbed off on the crowd, who got on their feet at the end and asked for and got a rousing encore. While Keating's signature husky voice stood out, the boys seemed determined to shine the spotlight equally on each member, with all sharing lead vocals.

It was futile. Keating's songs, such as When You Say Nothing At All and Love Is A Rollercoaster, still received some of the loudest cheers in the 21-song programme for the evening.

There was no running away from the fact that the outfit is still a Keating- led effort. The usual legion of screaming girls that can be found at any boyband reunion concert seemed to be a small, select group here, mostly directing their attention at him.

He has had the most success as a solo artist and enjoys pop currency with his five-season turn as a judge on reality singing competition The X Factor Australia.

The relative lack of histrionics at the concert seemed fitting, as the band paid tribute to baby- faced Gately, who used to share lead vocal duties with Keating.

Emotions were high during the performance of the Mika-penned tune Gave It All Away off Brother, the first album released after Gately's death. The late singer's parts were "sung" by himself via the recording, as his face appeared on the large screen, with the rest of the band joining him live. The foursome raised their eyes skywards during his parts, as if to acknowledge his presence.

"We see Steo everywhere we look," said Keating, using their nickname for Gately. He also admitted they could not reach Gately's signature high notes. A back-up female vocalist stood in for him on the 1998 hit, No Matter What, to tepid success.

Boyzone may no longer be a boyband that get their fans' hormones soaring, but with a solid vocal performance and gentlemanly groove, they may have more years in them yet.

This article was first published on May 25, 2015.
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