Irish quartet Westlife brings sweet nostalgia in fourth Manila concert30/09/2011 20:30
By ROWENA JOY A. SANCHEZ
MANILA, Philippines – It was more than gravity that made Filipinos fall in love once more with boy band Westlife through their fourth Manila concert held Sept. 29 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The “Gravity Tour 2011” is surely one for the books, particularly to those who, as the Irish lads said, “got through grade school” listening to their hits that never goes old… even if the guys that recorded them did. Shane Filan, Mark Feehily, Kian Egan, and Nicky Byrne may be in their 30s now yet their connection to the Filipino audience remains as strong as when they started out in the late ’90s, and even if it’s already their fourth concert here.
The jam-packed venue was filled with squeals, cheers, and colorful lights—even before the white curtain on the stage fell and revealed the group and even after they’ve left the platform—from the fans who sang their lungs out to their all-time favorite Westlife songs, as well as tracks from the group’s 11th studio album, “Gravity.”
Apparently, the feeling is mutual. The members of the million-record-selling boy band incessantly said their thanks yous to their beloved Filipino audience. Shane and Kian both declared that it was one of, if not, the best crowd they’ve had. And to cement that momentous event, Nicky and Kian took out their camera phones and captured videos of the crowd. It turned out, as the latter revealed, that they’re making a “video diary” for their family in Ireland.
In spite of the large venue, the concert felt intimate and personal. Westlife members know how to make their fans feel special. At one point during their spiels, the four chose four fans who had what they deem as the best banners, invited them onstage and dedicated their song “Beautiful Tonight” to them. Nicky also got the Filipino fans doing their own brand of a giant wave and at another point, singing “My Love” in a capella, which Nicky both filmed through his phone.
The four also made simple, personal gestures at their fans from time to time, such as waving and smiling at them. We caught Mark pick a rolled letter which a fan in the front area of the stage probably tossed to them. After quietly signaling each other, Mark discreetly tucked the letter in his pants’ pocket. Sweet.
It was apparently a nostalgic night for the fans, hearing the energetic three-song opener “When You’re Looking Like That,” “World Of Our Own,” and “What Makes A Man,” as well as the Westlife hits “Flying Without Wings,” “Seasons In The Sun,” and “My Love.”
Their 15-song set also included their versions of “Home,” “You Raise Me Up,” and an amusing and surprising medley of pop tunes, consisting of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida,” Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In The World)”—the chorus of which Mark tweaked into “I’m gonna make you feel, like you’re the only girl in the world…”—The Black Eyed Peas’ “Time Of My Life (Dirty Bit),” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” (done with some Gaga-esque choreography).
Apart from singing clearly—and may we make special mention of Mark’s flair for improvisation which added a different spice to the songs—the boys also unleashed the signature dance moves characteristic among boy bands. That’s something we don’t see often nowadays, and probably that’s why the show became all the more enjoyable.
Westlife heeded the fans’ loud screams for an encore and performed “What About Now” and “Uptown Girl” before taking their final bow in what surely the fans hope not to be their last Manila show. Two hours watching a Westlife concert was indeed time well spent.