Blue, the Point, Dublin, 18th November 2002
Blue are the boy band it's OK to like. This is what I've been telling myself and everyone around me for the past two months. The male Sugababes, the good-looking version of Westlife, though with much better songs. However, this is generally met with raised eyebrows and snorts of disgust. I remain unperturbed and challenge you not to hum along with the super catchy 'All rise' or 'One love'.
Down at the oversize barn, sorry, The Point, as we wait for the boys in Blue to arrive on stage, an ads loop goes round on two big screens. I've never been to one of these pop concerts before, but it seems incredibly cynical to unleash an advertising assault on thousands of teenagers in a confined space. Still, the kids aren't taking much notice of the product on sale; they're much more interested in SCREAMING their heads off at the sight of any virile young male on screen. Darius, Gareth, Robbie and Enrique all elicit ear-piercing squeals from the pre-teenyboppers. Interestingly, shots of the very attractive Will Young fail to get much of a response. How fickle teenagers are.
Then we're teased by a recorded intro to the show. The Blue boys have escaped from prison you see, and they're on the run. Next thing, they emerge from the back of the stage in some kind of mini jeep thing, all dressed from head to foot in leather. Thousands of girls simultaneously GO COMPLETELY NUTS. I find myself clutching my ears, but grinning like a loon. Surely this level of oestrogen in one room must be a danger to someone.
I don't know all their names. I only know that Duncan is the gorgeous one. He first caught my attention when he appeared on "Never Mind the Buzzcocks". I thought he looked more like an indie kid than the member of a boy band. On stage, there's no doubt that he's incredibly talented though. A strong singer, he is the best dancer among them. The best singer is the guy who does the high bit in 'Fly By' (you know the guy). The other two wouldn't stop traffic, but are undeniably talented.
And they put on an excellent show. Something that may come as a surprise to the more cynical among you is that they had a full live band behind them. No creaky Louis Walsh style backing tapes here. They performed all their hits (that's one good thing about manufactured pop concerts - the group HAVE to play the hit singles) including the unnecessary, but not horrendous, cover of Elton John's 'Sorry seems to be the hardest word'.
There are various pre-recorded interludes on screen between songs, notably an amusing sketch that sees the boys dressing up in '70s gear before they arrive on stage in said attire and do a number of disco tracks. So welcoming to see a boy band with some sense of fun. 'One Love' gets a huge response from the squealing girlies and Blue do seem to be somewhat humbled by all this. A tri-colour and a Dublin footie flag end up on stage and two of the boys wear them for the rest of the gig. No lacy knicker gifts from this crowd who are clearly too young to remember the Tom Jones phenomenon, first or second time round.
What sets Blue apart from your average boy band is that they seem to realise that the shelf life of this fame game is extremely short-lived. They've only been around a year and are massive. This time next year they could be working in their local Burger King. Their songs aren't unnecessarily drippy (Westlife take note). Instead they have a nice poppy/mild r n' b sound going on, as demonstrated in breakthrough single 'All Rise'. Basically, they look like they're having a laugh, which is good because it's unlikely they're getting too much of cut in the takings of these gigs. They graciously thank each member of band and each dancer and the audience, admitting: "We wouldn't be standing here if it wasn't for you lot."
Nobody ever claimed this music was going to change the world but it beats the hell out the likes of the Stereophonics and other dirge merchants. They finish neatly and on time with the popular 'Fly By' and the hormonally overwrought girlies are rushed home so they can get up for school in the morning. Though not before a pleasant dream or two…