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August 2010: Sligo Weekender sports editor LIAM Ó MAOLDHOMHNAIGH reflects on the recent Westlife concert at Lissadell House which he attended.
THIS wasn’t akin to a chap named Peter denying that he knew a fella called Jesus. These denials were real.
Do you own a Westlife CD? No, I do not. Have you ever seen Westlife play live before? No, I have not. Are you a fan of Westlife? No, I am not. But on the Friday before last I became a convert, of sorts. On the road to Lissadell.
True, leaving north Sligo’s Lissadell that Friday night became a much longer goodbye than anticipated – due to transport hiccups – but the magic of the concert beforehand is what mattered.
With millions of albums sold, records broken and a world-wide fanbase,Westlife have nothing left to prove.
They’ve matured. No longer delivering teen pop fodder, they now churn out appreciated ballads. It is still pop – they aren’t trying to be the next Metallica or Kasabian – but Westlife know their audience, what they do is listenable and catchy.
Their professionalism, too, has long been recognised. If you go to a Westlife concert you will be entertained.
The once five-piece now four-piece have certainly absorbed the quote uttered by Oliver Reed’s character, Antonius Proximo, in the 2000 epic Gladiator – he tells Maximus, as played by Russell Crowe, to “win the crowd”. Westlife have been winning the crowd from day one. At Lissadell thousands fell under their spell.
But their July date in the NorthWest, at a historical venue embedded in Irish culture, was of extra significance. Returning to Sligo, where three of the four band members hail from, meant they not just had to win the crowd, but a home crowd. Their crowd.
Shane Filan, Mark Feehily, Kian Egan and Dubliner Nicky Byrne brought fans to their feet from the opening song of their set.
Those in attendance, who were warmed up by singer-songwriter Glen Cal and the emerging Wonderland, a girl group whose crew includes Jodi Albert, wife of the aforementioned Kian Egan, were drawn from a vast melting pot.
Hardcore followers from all over Sligo, Ireland and the planet, including many who had watched them perform in Markievicz Park – their previous Sligo appearance – seven years ago.
Friends, family members and locals also took up their seats. People who had come in contact with the burgeoning singers over the years and others there solely for a good night’s entertainment.
The key to understanding Westlife’s popularity isn’t just that their product is accessible – it is near impossible not to bop along to some of their songs – it is that the band members are, to paraphrase Irish parlance, a group of “sound lads”.
Everyone has their own Westlife story. Those who were class-mates, childhood accquaintances or neighbours. Those who helped them along the way, however small the connection.
A friend of mine is a good pal of Shane Filan’s and this link has allowed this writer to attempt what thousands of Westlife fans would frown upon.
Yes, I’ve tried to kick Shane Filan. In purely recreational soccer terms, of course. That he escaped these industrial tackles was due to his superior technique. A mover on stage, he can also move on a pitch.
Away from the singing and dancing quartet, who also showed their flexibility by belting out songs from other artists, their shrewd Merlin, Louis Walsh, was also attracting attention – mobile phones twinkled in his vicinity as fans got further mementoes from a wonderful occasion.
Everyone took something from Westlife’s Lissadell.
They didn’t have to convince anyone of their worth but they did it anyway and with panache – signature hits such as ‘World of Our Own’ and ‘Flying Without Wings’ probably the event’s highlights.
Having seen them play, and enjoyed it, the next thing for this writer is to purchase one of their many albums.
I mightn’t be an outright fan, just yet, but there is no use denying that I won’t. On the road to Lissadell, mysterious things occur. Westlife have added to the venue’s unique aura.
Source: Sligo . Credits: TCM Editorial
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