After more than twenty-five years together, top-selling and multi-award winning Irish boy band Boyzone arrived in New Zealand during their Thank You & Goodnight World Tour to bid farewell to their fans at the Spark Arena in Auckland.
The Germein sisters from Adelaide Hills, South Australia performed the opening set with Georgia on guitar/keys, Ella on electric cello/bass and Clara Germein on drums. The female trio exhibited confidence and high energy that immediately got the seated audience in the right mood for a fun night. The combined vocal harmonies of all three siblings was a clear signature of the Germein sound with catchy pop songs like Talking and Knocking At My Door that leaned towards Taylor Swift and HAIM. Although relatively new in the music scene, Germein has already garnered an impressive following after performing at the Isle of Wight festival and opening for Phil Collins.
When Boyzone was at the height of their pop stardom in the late 90s, this writer spent a fair amount of time to appreciate the 'boy band phenomenon' in the People's Republic of China. It was mind-blowing to see how China (quite sheltered from Western music at that time) fully embraced not only the music but also fell under the spell of the Irish superstars, much more than Take That in this writer's view. Mega billboards, adverts and posters contained pictures of Boyzone and their songs were everywhere from restaurants, malls to hotel lobbies. This was part of the global appeal for the Irish boy band. Fast forward more than two decades, six studio albums and twenty-eight singles later, this writer gets to see Boyzone perform their final tour in Auckland before permanently disbanding.
After a recorded string of 80s-90s pop hits by S Club 7, Wham and more, the massive screen onstage lit up with the now well-known post-apocalyptic 'King Arthur-Robin Hood-ish' introductory video before Ronan Keating, Keith Duffy, Mikey Graham and Shane Lynch took turns to welcome the audience with Who We Are and Love Is A Hurricane.
Ronan Keating is no stranger to Australia and New Zealand after making multiple trips and spending a fair amount of time in both countries. Right from the start, Keating's instantly recognisable vocals were clear and full of exuberance. He effortlessly led the way on most of the songs while not over-shadowing his other bandmates. And how about that cute snort after sharing a joke about no internet or porn when they visited NZ in the late 90s for a promo and sharing his love for the late Stephen 'Steo' Gately and the 'feminine' names that he had given to everyone in the band.
Keith Duffy was all smiles and got the crowd laughing on multiple occasions with his jokes and funny stories from the Boyzone history books. His story about receiving a call on the band's shared cellphone in 90s with news of becoming a Daddy for the first time was a touching introduction to Boyzone's popular cover of Father and Son released in 95' which incidentally was Keating's chosen song when he auditioned for the band and a single he released again with original composer Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam in 2004.
Mikey Graham is often regarded as the 'quiet' member of Boyzone and yet it is his love for rock music and his 'rougher' vocals that give a different and welcoming dimension to each song. Graham's introduction and vocals during the cover Words by the Bee Gees was a clear highlight of the night.
And how about the 'joker in the pack' Shane Lynch who was always engaging with the audience with a sly grin and 'busting' a dance move or two onstage. His love for cars and motorsports must have rubbed off on the other members of Boyzone when the video for Talk About Love showed the boys racing across the animated screen with swirling synths and EDM bass drops.
But it was the band's longing and everlasting love for the 'permanent fifth' Boyzone member Stephen Gately that resonated strongly throughout the concert. Keating shared incredibly touching and loving words about the 'only gay boy in the band' who lovingly won the other four straight guys over to his camp. The resurrection of Gately's vocals in the song Dream on Boyzone's latest and final studio album, Thank You & Goodnight was a perfect tribute. All four members surrounded and hugged a bright column of white light as they collectively sang this song for (and with) Steo while his spirit filled the arena. This was followed by Every Day I Love You which allowed Gately's smooth vocals to be clearly heard, cherished and be forever remembered.
The strong bond and brotherhood shared by Keating, Duffy, Graham and Lynch for each other was also apparent, with lots of joking and ribbing each other on stage with an abundance of group hugs and nods of approval to each other.
In addition to the huge screen with animated clips and footage, the concert was accompanied by modest stage lighting. Unfortunately, one downside was certain spotlights that did not fully illuminate members of the band. This was particularly evident when Graham remained in the shadows while he was on centre stage leading the song Words and his other bandmates were clearly lit up. Lynch even made a comment that Keating's spotlight operator was 'drunk' and could not keep up with him on stage. Another minor irk was the use of backing tracks for the show, especially during guitar solos without a guitar.
More highlights from the Auckland show included Love Me for a Reason, Love You Anyway (with the risqué female silhouettes ala Bond movie intros) and When The Going Gets Tough where the audience got to appreciate some cheesy but endearing synchronised dance moves that were (and still are) the staple routine of all boy bands. The incorporation of vocals from female backing singer Joanna Garland in No Matter What and an acapella finish of the popular wedding song was also a delightful touch.
Throughout the concert, one could see mothers and daughters, seasoned and young couples, holding hands and each other close... softly singing and gently moving to the memories evoked by the songs and music of Boyzone. Pop music and boy bands may not appeal to everyone but it must still be regarded and appreciated as a force that transcends gender, country or creed. While Life Is A Rollercoaster, or a Hurricane, music is what can 'speak right to one's heart'.
As we close the chapter to Boyzone's place in pop music history, we say thank you and goodnight to Kitty, Shanice, Mikaela and Rosaleen... nicknames given by the solely missed Stephanie aka Stephen Gately.
Boyzone will perform their second NZ show at the TSB Arena in Wellington tonight (10 April).