My single most memorable moment of a concert was the 2008 Back Home Westlife tour. Next to my mum and I sat a woman, probably the age I am now and her little girl. Her little girl was about 8 years old, all blonde hair and smiles bopping along next to her mum. At one point, the mum scooped the girl up into her arms and held onto her, her eyes glistening with tears as she took out her mobile phone, made a call and proceeded to hold the phone up to the song that was playing. The song was Home, and the lady would later tell us through embarrassed laughter as she wiped tears away from her eyes that it was their song. The little girls father was in the army and that they would play it and “think of daddy”. That was who she has called whilst the song was on.
Four songs into the final night of Shane Filan’s Right Here tour, the opening piano notes of Home fills the auditorium of the Victoria Hall, Hanley and at that moment I’m transported back to all of those years ago. I turned to my mum and we both give one another a knowing smile and I wonder whether that song still meant as much now to that family as it did at that moment. I hope so.
When you were the front man of a record breaking boy band for over 14 years and have two hit solo albums under your belt, how do you possibly whittle all of those songs down to a 90 minute set? It would be easy to choose a set list made up entirely of solo material from Shane’s debut 2013 album You and Me and the tours namesake, Right Here. Being the crowd pleaser that he is, a mix of his solo material including Everything to Me, Me and the Moon, Knee Deep in Your Love and Effortlessly You and Westlife fan favourites What About Now, World of Our Own and Uptown Girl was the perfect set list punctuated with interaction with a very enthusiastic audience. Predominantly female, of course.
It’s been over 17 years since the band as a collective flew into London for their first showcase and even faithful fans have been there for the first single, the number ones, the tours, marriages, births, the split in 2012 and following each of the bands respective careers. Even to Stoke-on-Trent.
The venues may be smaller and the rest of the Westlife boys may have been replaced by Shane’s live band but what is so familiar is the overwhelming talent of Shane Filan.
Not only a phenomenal vocalist and talented songwriter, he’s also charismatic and funny on stage and certainly knows how to work a crowd which hung on his every word.
It’s a classic Westlife track “You Raise Me Up” on which the curtain of the Right Here Tour 2016 closes. The Right Here tour was the perfect celebration of those songs loved once upon a time (and on a frequently visited Spotify playlist, FYI) but that aside, it’s a reminder of how Shane has evolved as a solo artist in his own right.
Photographs courtesy of Tony Stott Photography.