Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 January 2020

Westlife in Dubai review: 20 years on, Irish pop group can still charm a crowd

Unexpected Queen tributes, big hits and tender moments from the Irish pop group at the Coca-Cola Arena

Westlife perform at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena on August 29, 2019. Courtesy Seven Media
Westlife perform at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena on August 29, 2019. Courtesy Seven Media

I should start this by saying 10-year-old me was a very big Westlife fan, so when 30-year-old me saw that the Irish four-piece were coming to Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena, I was delighted. And they did not disappoint.

The band put on a chatty, energetic and dynamic show, engaging with the crowd of 10,000 fans. They belted out all of their biggest hits, played a couple of new songs and dedicated a chunk of the show to covers. The crowd was there to sing along all night long, as the group brought their Twenty Tour, marking 20 years since the band formed.

“When we started we never thought we’d have a crowd like this 20 years on,” singer Kian Egan said when it was his chance to take the mic and thank the fans.

They kicked the night off with Hello My Love, their latest single, which happened to be penned by Ed Sheeran. And followed up by old favourites, Swear It Again, My Love and When You're Looking Like That.

There was choreography, outfit changes and slick graphics.

Every few songs, the band would take a rest - essential after 20 years on stage, I assume - giving one of the guys a chance to talk to fans. Shane Filan looked back on their 20 years together, while Mark Feehily remarked upon how much their lives have changed. The most tongue-in-cheek monologue came from Nicky Byrne, who joked, “It's been 20 years but you’re all looking really good ... the Botox must be good here in Dubai.”

Half way through the night there was an unexpected Queen tribute. The band belted out a medley of hits, including Radio Ga Ga, I Want To Break Free and We Are The Champions.

Westlife perform at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena on August 29, 2019. Courtesy Seven Media
Westlife perform at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena on August 29, 2019. Courtesy Seven Media

"Are there any fans here from Ireland?" Byrne asked the crowd, while holding the orange, green and white flag. The question got the cheer you'd expect. He then asked, "What about the Philippines?" and got a roar in response. It is safe to say the Westlife's Filipino fans were out masses last night.

Long-time Westlife fans will know the band had a reputation for just sitting on stools on stage in the early 2000s. The band brought them back for a quick acoustic session of some of their popular ballads.

The main set finished with You Raise Me Up, while the encore comprised of crowd favourites Flying Without Wings and World Of Our Own.

The National’s Farah Andrews with sister-in-law Ainslie Andrews, having the time of their lives at Westlife, and disposing of any musical street cred they ever had.
The National’s Farah Andrews with sister-in-law Ainslie Andrews, having the time of their lives at Westlife, and disposing of any musical street cred they ever had.

Even though I am an unabashed fangirl, there is no way that the crowd would have left disappointed last night. All of the big hits were performed and we were all there to sing our hearts out with our favourite Irish guys.

Updated: August 30, 2019 12:01 PM

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