Belfast Telegraph

Belfast goes crazy for Westlife

Wonderland at the Odyssey. (L-R) Kasey Smith, Sharon Condon, Jodi Albert. Leigh Learnmont and Corrina Duran. May 2010
Wonderland at the Odyssey. (L-R) Kasey Smith, Sharon Condon, Jodi Albert. Leigh Learnmont and Corrina Duran. May 2010
Alan Lewis - Photopress Belfast 2/5/2010Mandatory Credit - Picture by Justin KernoghanNew girl group Wonderland with Westlife's Kian and Louis Walsh.
Westlife at the Odyssey. May 2010
Westlife at the Odyssey. May 2010
Westlife at the Odyssey. May 2010
Westlife at the Odyssey. May 2010
2/5/2010 PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST. WESTLIFE OPEN THEIR TOUR IN BELFAST AT THE ODYSSEY ARENA TONIGHT. PICTURE CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER.
Westlife at the Odyssey. May 2010
Westlife's Shane, Mark, Kian and Nicky, 2008
First fans in the queue to see Westlife during their book signing in Belfast
Kian Egan of Westlife
Westlife's Nicky with one of the hundreds of fans who turned up to see the band at Eason's Donegall Place store in Belfast
Two young Westlife fans say it with flowers during the band's book signing at Eason's Donegall Place store in Belfast
Westlife fan Joanne Dooley in tears after meeting their heroes during the band's book signing in Eason's Donegall Place store in Belfast
It's all too much for one fan during the Westlife book signing in Eason's Donegall Place store in Belfast
Westlife fans celebrate after meeting the band during their book signing in Eason's Donegall Place store in Belfast
Joyful Westlife fans after meeting their heroes during the band's book signing in Eason's Donegall Place store in Belfast
Orlaith Berkery and Emma McCudden after meeting Westlife during the band's book signing in Eason's Donegall Place store in Belfast
Cameras at the ready to capture their heroes - during the Westlife book signing in Belfast
Kora Brennan, Aine McGreevy and Stephanie Fitzsimons at the top of the queue to see Westlife during their book signing at Eason's store in Donegall Place, Belfast July 2008

You know a band are popular when the crowd is going nuts before they've even taken the stage.

The party atmosphere at last night's first of three Westlife shows at the Odyssey Arena began with the appearance of the boy band members on the video screens.

Shane got a cheer. Kian got a roar. Nicky got a deafening, bloodcurdling scream. And Mark ... Well, Mark seems to be Westlife's Ringo, but the response was still louder than you would get for Kiss, Metallica and Green Day put together.

Westlife's entrance would have shamed these rock titans, too. The intro music was like the Star Wars theme having a fight with the Superman theme, while the stage set looked like the Armagh Planetarium on crack.

The four singers appeared onstage clad top to toe in studded black leather, sporting haircuts that probably cost more than my car.

They kicked off with a one-two punch of über-ballad What About Now and the actually-quite-rocking When You're Looking Like That.

This set the formula for the evening — a ballad followed by an upbeat tune, and the fans loved every minute of it.

The capacity crowd was made up mainly of girls from six to 60, but there were a few dads and husbands in there, too — and everyone sang themselves hoarse.

It was impossible to resist the bouncy charm of anthems like Mandy, Shadows and Billy Joel's Uptown Girl.

They even had a crack at Thin Lizzy's The Boys Are Back in Town (with Kian on guitar!), and it wasn't half bad.

The show was the opening night of the tour to promote Westlife's new album Where We Are, but it was just as much a greatest hits set.

And what hits. You don't sell 40 million records and score 14 number ones — almost as many as the Beatles — without knowing a good tune when Louis Walsh hears one.

Boyzone may be cuter. Take That may be quirkier. But Westlife are certainly the most charismatic of the boy bands, and they had the Belfast audience in the palm of their hands for the duration of this two-hour extravaganza.

No expense had been spared. There were costume changes, at least three major set changes and what looked like the plans for the Death Star on the video screens.

But the focus was on the four guys. Their dancing wasn't up to much, but they were clearly having the time of their lives up there. When Nicky asked if the crowd had missed them, I thought my glasses were going to shatter with the volume of the response.

Indeed, the fans were so loud it was hard to tell how the boys' voices are holding up after an astonishing 11 years at the top of their game.

Boyzone may be cuter. Take That may be quirkier. But Westlife are certainly the most charismatic of the boy bands, and they had the Belfast audience in the palm of their hands for the duration of this two-hour extravaganza.

ANDREW JOHNSTON

Belfast Telegraph

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