The 20-year journey of Irish pop group Boyzone that brings them to Dubai Thursday night
In November 1994, Irish boy band Boyzone introduced themselves to the world with Love Me for a Reason, a cover of The Osmonds’ track released 20 years previously.
The five-man group, put together by future X Factor judge Louis Walsh as a Gaelic alternative to Take That, went on to dominate the UK charts for the remainder of the decade – tallying 10 top 10 singles plus six number ones including Words, No Matter What and You Needed Me.
But as the millennium approached and inter-band tensions escalated, the quintet parted ways. Ronan Keating went on to have a successful solo career with hits like When You Say Nothing at All, again managed by Walsh until the duo fell out over his musical direction.
Keith Duffy moved towards acting, joining soap opera Coronation Street, meanwhile Mikey Graham retreated into family life. Stephen Gately had a brief solo career before also moving into acting, starring in the West End show Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, while Shane Lynch indulged in his passion for motorsport and became a regular on reality TV shows like Cirque de Celebrite.
The band finally settled their differences and reunited in 2008 – with fans flocking to arenas across the UK and Ireland to hear the old classics. Tragedy struck the following year though, as Gately died while on holiday from an undiagnosed heart condition.
Despite being rocked to their core, Boyzone have continued as a four-piece – releasing the record Brother in 2010 in tribute to their bandmate and last year bringing out their fifth studio album BZ20.
As the pop veterans prepare to play Dubai, City Times spoke with Shane.
What were your expectations when you first joined Boyzone?
I expected the world. I didn’t for one minute doubt the success of Boyzone – and I have to give credit to Louis Walsh, because he promised us the sun, the moon and the stars and that’s what he delivered.
Was there any naïveté in that entirely optimistic outlook?
If it didn’t work out, we could’ve looked back and said we definitely were naïve, but certainly not with the success that happened.
When did you first realise Boyzone were a big deal?
We thought we were big from the beginning – and it was a big deal when we got our first magazine cover. It was called In Dublin, and they literally only sold it in Dublin, but we thought we’d hit the big time. It just continued from there.
How has it been continuing as a four-piece after the passing of Stephen?
It’s definitely not an easy thing to do, moving forward without someone who was such a big asset to our group – and someone who we loved dearly. But I think as time went on we realised we’d prefer to be together and we understand each other’s loss equally. And the more time we spend together, the more time we can celebrate Stephen. When we’re on stage we can talk about him with the fans. That’s a big part of our show.
When Boyzone reunited in 2008, did you find people’s reaction to the band had changed at all?
There’s a lot of love out there for Boyzone. I have no idea why that is, but we constantly get the TV shows that other bands can’t get and constantly sell out the arenas that other bands can’t sell out. It’s just one of those things, and maybe our break was a great part of that.
How do you keep fit?
I had a full-body medical the other day after five years, and I’m fitter now than I was five years ago. I’m very happy to say that! I made a conscious effort to change my lifestyle, and it paid off. I eat sensibly and I do my 20 minutes of training a day. But you know that you can’t avoid eating junk when you’re on the road.
Have Boyzone made any attempt to appeal to a younger audience in 2014?
We’re just doing the music we like to do. If anyone likes that music, be it a teenager or older, that’s absolutely fine with us. We’re not trying to appeal to anyone or grab any particular market. We are who we are, and 20 years later I think that’s quite apparent. We’ll just continue in that way.