Ronan Keating: 'Boyzone's Dubai concert will be emotional'
The Irish singer on the group’s final world tour and paying tribute to fallen member Stephen Gately
The word “goodbye” has always been ambiguous in pop music. Bands and solo acts, from Kiss and The Eagles to Phil Collins, would routinely announce a final tour, only to return a few years later for another run of shows.
This is partly why Boyzone have been so unambiguous with the title of their seventh and final album. The collection is not a swan song effort that winks at a possible return. Instead it is, quite literally, a “Thank You and Goodnight”.
“Yeah, this is it,” confirms lead singer Ronan Keating, in an interview with The National. “We’re not spring chickens any more. We’re not kids. We have our own kids who are now older than we were when we started.”
Before riding off into the sunset, however, the Irish boy band – who have been a four-piece since Stephen Gately died in 2009 of heart failure – are embarking on a final world tour that calls in at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Friday.
With the band already having completed successful shows in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and with a bunch of UK stops to look forward to this summer, Keating describes final tours as a live music genre of their own. For one thing, there is no funny business when it comes to planning, he says, as a group’s farewell shows should be strictly for the fans.
“This is not really the time to take risks,” he says. “We are going to the places where Boyzone have had a history, where we sold records and tickets in the past.”
So is it like a victory lap? “I would definitely look at it that way. This is just us going back out to say thank you one last time and to enjoy ourselves.”
The decision to call it a day came in 2018, well before the group went into the studio to record their final album. It marked 25 years since the group landed on the scene with their first single, a cover of The Four Seasons’ Working My Way Back to You. It was a direct result of them replying to newspaper advertisements from music executive Louis Walsh, who wanted to create an Irish version of the English big-selling boy band Take That. Walsh then became Boyzone’s manager.
It was their second album, 1996’s A Different Beat, that established them internationally, thanks to the chart-topping singles Coming Home Now and the album’s title track of the same name. The fact that it took the group’s second effort to reach their potential is the reason Keating is grateful to be an artist of the previous generation. More than the fact that back then, people were buying albums, Keating says record labels took a more realistic approach when signing up young groups.
“The industry has changed in that it is far more disposable than it used to be,” he explains. “When Boyzone came out, we were given a shot and the patience to record our singles and albums. Nowadays, the thought is if it is not working, then the artist will be dropped. The record companies will bail on the artists and I find that sad.”
That realistic approach also resulted in each band member steadily finding their own voice within the group. For example, Keating says it is Shane Lynch who is more responsible for the group’s RnB leanings due to his love of the genre, while Mikey Graham (the self-confessed “quiet one”) is more interested in the folk side. As the lead singer, Keating says his influences are more varied. His musical choices are normally a gut call. “I kind of made it up as I went along to be honest,” he says.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve, and whatever I was giving, it was just coming from my natural place at that time. And you know, some albums I’ve made, I look back and think they were great, and then some I look at and I think that wasn’t right at the time. You kind of have to do that. You need to be experimental. You try things and it is OK if they don’t always work necessarily.”
This explains the seemingly unwieldy nature of the album Thank You & Goodnight. Instead of going back to their winning trademark balladry, Boyzone have chosen to say goodbye with an eclectic bunch of songs that gleefully skip across various styles, such as dance, pop, RnB and folk. “The idea was to create an album that was like a playlist,” he says. “So this album is a collaboration of the four of us and our own individual musical tastes. And so you’ve got urban, you’ve got country, you’ve got pop, you’ve got rock, you’ve got dance. You’ve got a real mixed bag.”
In a way, the album is the perfect career send-off as it allows each member to shine in their own light and styles, which in turn will set them up for their new lives as solo acts. That said, in an affecting act of gratitude, the trio have not forgotten their fallen member Gately, who is affectionately referred to by the band as “Steo”. His vocals appear in the power ballad I Can Dream, a song he recorded solo back in 2001.
Ever since his death, Boyzone have paid tribute to Gately with each live show. The fact that this is the final tour, Keating says, has made it much more heart-wrenching for the band. “We’ll never do a show without honouring Steo in some shape or form, and that’s really important to us,” he says.
“We have a special section in this show that we’ve created around Steo. It is very special and I look forward to everybody in Dubai seeing that. It will be emotional.”
Boyzone will perform at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Friday, April 12 from 7pm. Tickets from Dh195 are available at dubai.platinumlist.net
Updated: April 10, 2019 04:52 PM