Westlife: London Astoria G.A.Y.

Westlife don't get in the day-glo, tight-thonged, oil-chested swing of things at G.A.Y.

The last thing you want when you’re pumping your ass to the tinny beats of the latest clubbed-up Steps remix is a bunch of pretty-boy Irish lads launching in to a set of drippy, lighter-waving ballads. Fair enough, Westlife may not have been beaten with the ugly stick as many times as, say, the Backstreet Boys, but they’re hardly the kind of act to get the regular G.A.Y. crowd whipped up in to a foaming disco frenzy.

Met with what could only be described as a ‘lukewarm’ greeting, the lads lumber awkwardly on stage as if they don’t really want to be there and offer the crowd a handful of creaky old ditties that would have made even your bed-bound granny want to dig her own grave and throw herself in. To give the boys their due, they do dispense with their trademark syrupy croonfests in favour of, wouldn’t you know, some equally lacklustre and ultimately soulless mid-tempo MOR-athons.

‘No, No’, ‘Seasons In The Sun’, ‘Uptown Girl’ (complete with a change of outfit) and their ill-advised rock-tinged new single, ‘When You’re Looking Like That’, are merely empty gestures which still fail to keep the beats-per-minute-hungry crowd happy. After all, this isn’t what the boys in the house want to see. They want to be treated to corking dance routines, some feisty performances and some cracking, beaming smiles. What they get instead is a bunch of sour pusses skulking around the back of the stage like precocious kids.

The only saving grace of the night comes, not too surprisingly, in the looming form of resident quipster Bryan McFadden, who, let it be known from this day on, is by far the funniest man in pop (well, he got that Atomic Kitten girl up the duff, so he must have a sense of humour!) Thanks to McFaddster The Gagster, their 30 minute stint doesn’t seem quite as painful as it could have been. In his intro to their seventh No. 1, ‘My Love’, the cheeky chunkster explains that the track had originally been called ‘My Love (Of My Cock)’ which sends the hyped-up crowd, for one time at least, into an orgasmic frenzy and leaves them all musing on what the band’s pre-watershed audience would have made of a comment like that!

He also leads the boys in a saucy gay-friendly acappella version of the Tempations classic, ‘My Girl’, which the scamp cleverly retitled ‘My Guy’ before introducing the crowd to the band’s own special Uptown ‘Girl’ (or, as it turned out, some dodgy geezer in a shapeless black dress and hat), who frolics cheekily with the lads, flashing them – and thankfully it was them only – what ‘she’ had hanging around underneath.

But there’s just no forgiving the blatant contempt with which the boys treat their Astoria crowd. Appearances at the club may have become just a cynical marketing exercise to flog a bunch of records but for the gang to turn up and not even bother to try to get the crowd on side was unforgivable and foolish. With poor old birthday boy Bryan – the king of the ‘Life – repeatedly saying to the crowd, “perhaps you’ll know the words to this one…”, Westlife may have realised for the first time that the magic Ready Brek glow they’ve enjoyed for the last couple of years or so may just be fading, and on this occasion at least, they’ve only got themselves to blame.

Christian Guiltenane