Review: Westlife – The SSE Arena, Belfast
Crowds of all ages were gathered at the SSE Arena last night for the opening night of the much anticipated Westlife’s The Twenty Tour. Having played the most shows in The SSE Arena’s, formerly the Odyssey, history the boys from Ireland are certainly no strangers to the Belfast stage.
The crowds were warmed up by US pop sensation Keelie Walker. At only 15 years old, Keelie commanded the stage like a pro with her dance-pop tracks. Two stand out tracks of her set were her latest single ‘This Is What It’s Like’ and her popular track ‘Hit Me Up’.
The entire performance from Keelie was energetic and got the crowd going. Keelie had stage presence beyond her years and never missed a step in her choreography. Her cover of ‘Attention’ by Charlie Puth was certainly a crowd pleaser for the audience, familiar with the song.
Her performance was rounded off with her upcoming single ‘Not You’ which will be released on July 5th and is certainly one to watch out for.
Keelie was followed by a family band The Rua which consisted of Roseanna, Alanna and Jonathan. The band displayed an impressive array of musical talent with Roseanna playing the guitar, Alanna on keyboard and Jonathan on violin.
Their song ‘Gasoline’ which is currently 28 in the US Charts was very powerful and Roseanna’s vocals were unparalleled. An endearing moment heard the band say that they used to listen to Westlife themselves when they were younger and had attended their gigs before.
By the time Westlife were due to start, the SSE Arena was packed to the brim with Louis Walsh, the band’s manager standing at the sidelines awaiting the performance. The boys opened with one of their more recent songs ‘Hello My Love’ as the backdrop split and they appeared on a platform and multi coloured confetti canon went off. The audience reaction was amazing and they were met with screams and cheers, showing that although it has been 7 years since their last gig their fans are still as dedicated as ever. The boys seemed emotional themselves after seeing the fantastic reaction from the audience.
The band then quickly transitioned into one of their classic ballads ‘Swear It All Over Again’ a fan favourite which had the whole crowd singing along and swaying in typical Westlife style. It wasn’t till ‘When You’re Looking Like That’ played that you could see the true excitement of the crowd as everyone was on their feet dancing and singing along to the hit song.
This was quickly followed by a video montage which saw the boys in a Thunderbirds meets James Bond style cartoon having a secret meeting to decide on their return. It was clear to see that even though the band has not played in almost 10 years the level of production was modern and succinct and really made the show. They certainly did a great job of meeting the demands of a modern audience. This montage was followed by ‘Uptown Girl’ where the boys descended in all red and black attire. The choreography on all the numbers was second to none and it was obvious that the band had rehearsed well for this show.
Probably the stand out and most surprising moment of the show was still come. A video reel of the boys with ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ by Queen played in the background. But what the audience did not expect was an entire set of Queen songs in a medley. With the popularity of the ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ movie last year, it is no surprise that Westlife chose to incorporate this into their set.
The boys performed ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, ‘Radio Gaga’ and ‘I Want To Break Free’. Just when the audience thought their little taster of Queen was over they descended into a powerful rendition of ‘Somebody to Love’. However, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ really was the ultimate Queen track for the band as Kian picked up an electric guitar an proceeded to perform the guitar solo with the other members crowded round him.
And what would a Queen tribute be without a ‘We Will Rock You’ complete with audience clapping and singing. Throughout the show the boys interacted with the audience getting them to clap and sing along to their most popular tracks. The Queen set was finished with ‘We are the Champions’ as the boys disappeared into the backdrop once again in a spectacular fashion.
Some of the next tracks provided for a bit of nostalgia for early Westlife fans as 4 stools appeared at the front of the stage and the boys performed 3 of their most popular ballads; ‘Unbreakable’, ‘Fool Again’ and ‘Queen of My Heart’ sitting on these stools, as a nod to the early Westlife days.
The main set ended with a performance of ‘You Raise Me Up’ an ever popular and emotional song. The boys paid tribute to their families and everyone who had made the tour possible. This was then followed by an encore of ‘Flying Without Wings’ and ‘World Of Our Own’ two songs which everyone had been waiting for.
Overall, the show was spectacular and fed into the nostalgic Westlife era that everyone remembers whilst adding a modern twist and keeping the show exciting and up to date.