WESTLIFE THE TWENTY TOUR
National Stadium/Saturday (Aug 10)
SINGAPORE - Comeback shows by boy bands from the 1990s and early 2000s can either go the successful "man band" route of Take That - with fresh new songs, slick dance routines and spectacular stage productions, or the Boyzone route - with mostly in-sync moves, passable four-part harmonies and a minimal stage set up.
Thankfully, Irish pop quartet Westlife's return to the stage after a six-year hiatus was the former - the "Westlife 2.0" that they had promised when they came to Singapore on a promotional trip earlier this year.
Playing to a crowd of 20,000 at the National Stadium, Westlife members Nicky Byrne, 40, Kian Egan, 38, Mark Feehily, 39, and Shane Filan, 40, seem to have gotten bigger and better since their last show here in 2011, with the confidence afforded by their 20 years in the industry shining through.
It seemed a brave choice to kick off their 90-minute set with one of their new songs, the strident Hello My Love. But it was a rallying call to get behind this upgraded Westlife, who still possess solid vocals, boyish good looks and pop star charisma.
The group's new album, Spectrum, is not coming out till November, so the set list relied heavily on their catalogue of greatest hits.
But whether it was ballads like Swear It Again or If I Let You Go, or upbeat tunes like When You're Looking Like That, it was singalong hit after hit, making for a massive karaoke session. The crowd dutifully belted out the words, despite not having the words on screen.
Filan handled most of the lead vocal duties, but Feehily stood out with his soaring voice and impressive vocal runs.
Egan and Byrne showed that they too were perfectly capable of hitting the big notes as well, on a medley of songs by British rock legends Queen in the second half of the concert.
An acoustic section of the show where they did a stripped-back version of I Have A Dream, Unbreakable and Fool Again once again showcased just how stellar their harmonies still are as a group.
Along with several outfit changes - from military jackets, to sharp red and black suits, to black leather and denim ensembles - the members also frequently pointed out how hot it was in the venue, with Byrne saying "I feel like we're doing a show in a sauna."
Their banter, while rehearsed, came across as easy and unaffected, be it Byrne reminiscing about their first visit to Singapore and the crowds that gathered at the airport to welcome them, or Filan wishing the crowd "Happy 54th Birthday Singapore!".
It was also a special night for an Irish lady invited on stage for a surprise proposal, followed by the group serenading the happy couple with one of their new singles, Better Man.
Like Hello My Love, it was written by British pop super star Ed Sheeran and romantic in the feel-good style of a Westlife love song from the good old days.
It was fitting that for their encore, the group returned on stage in all-white suits reminiscent of the height of 2000s boy band fashion.
The best crowd singing was reserved for the karaoke staple Flying Without Wings, complete with the group recreating the dramatic, outstretched arms from the music video, followed by a catchy Bruno Mars-style, horn-laced version of World Of Our Own.
The finale songs were the perfect combination of old and new Westlife - a group that proved, if anything, that they have successfully found their second wind.