St Etienne

The Boys Are Back @ Symphony Hall, 25 February 2020

If you’ve come to this review expecting to see something about Thin Lizzy, you’re in the wrong place. No, this tour takes you back just as far as the mid-to-late 90’s with a Smash Hits-tastic boyband line up of Five, 911, Damage and A1. Temporary tattoo anyone? Free compilation tape?

A1 were the first to storm the stage and they were looking pretty fly. Ben still has his trademark curtains (‘same old brand-new hair’ I chuckled to myself), and there’s four of them again now (Paul missed The Big Reunion).

The hall full of women (there were maybe 10 men in the whole place!) remembered every word of A1’s hits which included ‘Same Old Brand New You’, ‘Like A Rose’ and ‘Everytime’. Of course, they finished with their cover of A-ha’s ‘Take On Me’ – their number one hit from 2000.

Damage were next up wearing Adam Ant-esque jackets and talking babysitters. They gave a slick performance of their slow jams including ‘Forever’, ‘Ghetto Romance’ and ‘Wonderful Tonight’. When you could hear them, their harmonies were on point. Unfortunately for both A1 and Damage the bass was so loud it went right through your chest and it was hard to hear anyone singing. This was toned down for 911 and Five, not that it mattered as most people were there to sing their hearts out whilst dreaming of the days when their biggest commitment was to watch Top of the Pops.

Third up were body shaking trio 911. I’ve only ever been a fan of their signature hit ‘Bodyshakin’ but I’m always mesmerised by Jimmy and Spike’s dance moves. As Spike cheekily told us: ‘no one can thrust like a boyband’. 911 opened with ‘Night to Remember’ — their first UK top 40 single — and took us through other hits including ‘Love Sensation’, ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’ and ‘More Than A Woman’.

Our final act was Five, who thoroughly deserved to end the night. There’s only three of them now (Ritchie, Scott and Sean) but they still brought the house down. Even if you weren’t that fond of them, you’ll find you know every single word of every single hit, and even some of the dance moves. They played a big selection of tunes including ‘Slam Dunk Da Funk’, ‘Got The Feelin’, ‘If Ya Gettin Down’, ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘When The Lights Go Out’, and more. Scott does all the rapping these days and he makes a fine job of it.

The night ended with Five’s first number one single from 1999, ‘Keep On Movin’, and the crowd spilled out into the streets still going on the chorus.

The Boys Are Back tour continues through March and tickets are on sale now.

Reviewer: Chrissie Duxson

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