A heavy cloud of nostalgia filled the Smart Araneta Coliseum last July 29 and 30, with Irish boy band Westlife performing a two-night concert series as part of their 20th anniversary tour fittingly titled "The Twenty Tour." Against a wild mob of people mostly in their late 20s and above that grew up listening to their hits since their eponymously named debut album in 1999 (the author—no shame—included), Shane Filan, Markus Feehily, Kian Egan, and Nicky Byrne did a mix of serenade and seduction that altogether sent everyone to the expected "We had joy! We had fun!" conclusion. (The band only teased a part of "Seasons In The Sun," if you're curious.)
This is Westlife's return to the live music scene—and possibly, the recording scene as well, but more on that later—ever since splitting in 2012. The foursome, which started with the same cast plus Brian McFadden, is UK’s top selling album group of the 21st century with over 55 million records worldwide. And their concert series this week is just the signal of something more career wise.
If you're part of those who've missed both nights, sorry. Then again, we got the highlights below!
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The production design
Westlife came prepared not just with their familiar, very much improved vocals, but also when it came to the stage. The set featured a massive LED screen showing a batch of rather hardworking animation and graphics. (Throwback alert: Their on-screen countdown displayed their faces alone—reminiscent of their first album's cover art!) This kind of reminded the fans that these titos—as timeless as they are—are keeping up with the millennial climate. Also, their energy on stage remained infectious even in their late 30s-40s!
The amazing vocals and the harmony!
This shouldn't have surprised us, but damn, mate! The tenor in the group Mark easily owned most of the tracks, as it should be. But next to his and Shane's trademark breathy belting, "eye candy" Nicky and Kian joined in the harmony with their own commendablly raspy solos.
That Queen medley
Speaking of amazing vocals... Westlife taking on Queen? Yes. It. Just. Happened. And it blew us away. Westlife confidently did an entertaining Freddie Mercuy tribute, taking on at least seven of the British rock band's most memorable songs. "Another One Bites The Dust," "Radio Ga Ga," "Somebody To Love," "We Are Champions"—name it! They even did a tableaux of Queen's famed "Bohemian Rhapsody" music video!
A frickin' fan fest!
Five lucky fans made it to the stage, being handpicked by the Westlife boys themselves. Together, they all sang one of the band's newer singles "Better Man"—complete with the perfect opportunity for a selfie, Facebook/Instagram Stories, etcetera.
A cry-fest karaoke session
Yep, that's what the concert turned out to be. Westlife's hit ballads "Swear It Again," "My Love," "What About Now," "If I Let You Go," and "Flying Without Wings" surely inspired the crowd to sing their hearts out, while the band's faster tracks "When You're Looking Like That," "Uptown Girl," and "World Of Our Own" sent them jumping! The rather chill jamming sesh where they teased with parts of "I Lay My Love On You," "Seasons In The Sun," and "No No" while on stools also made it more intimate. Kian and Nicky opening up to how "You Raise Me Up" helped them get through deaths of their loved ones back then also moved some.
The promise of a return
Overwhelmed with the turnout, Westlife dropped a bomb of them releasing an album late this year. "Who knows, if we will be back here again?" Kian could only tease, sending the Araneta crowd to a frenzy. Westlife's opening track at the concert "Hello My Love"—penned and produced by Ed Sheeran and Steve Mac themselves—is obviously part of that future surprise.
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Photographs and videos by the author