The General Electric (GE) Oil & Gas Arena, Aberdeen’s largest concert venue, was home to Ronan Keating, this reviewer taking in the sights of quite a big production. The curtains on the stage, purple, rippled black, looking as if to tear as they billowed. The stage also began to look foggy, very mystifying.
Metaxas was the support slot, an acoustic singer songwriter with quite a unique stamp on things. He opened earnest, with good range for a singer songwriter. Rousing chorus, too. The next one was despondent, with lines like, “end up howling at the moon”. This seemed to segue into the subsequent song. Women were swaying out front, the song impassioned with a feel of sadness. Cue whoops of appreciation.
After that was “Selene”, apparently dedicated to a poetess he’d an infatuation with. This was very introspective, his voice picking up, a real show of passion.
A cover of Eagles’ “Hotel California” followed. He soared high, which he didn’t quite pull off, however, his subsequent passion was very fitting. Soulful adlibbing vocals, in place of that iconic guitar solo, struck a chord that brought everyone’s attention.
“Wait For Me” appeared sun kissed and lazy, really showing he wasn’t afraid to be different and standout from the crowd. His closer, with the lines, “I’ve been a stranger to everybody I know”, furthermore, was a soaring effort for a one man show.
Come the time, Ronan Keating arrived onstage with a sizeable band, though what wasn’t so sizeable was a sparse, in places, crowd. Anyway, this included keyboardist, acoustic guitarist, guitarist, drummer, bassist, backing vocals and a guy playing a whole host of other things, including accordion.
Things opened with a show of lights, piano and the industrial ambience of drum. Fanatical whooping followed as Keating came onstage. “Time Of My Life” was a pulsing rocker, moody. That Irish brogue, the mark of a ladies man and rogue. The stage was bright and neon illuminated, the guitarist loving himself, lost in the moment of a guitar solo.
“Lovin’ Each Day” got everyone up, clapping. Those neon colours, blue, were now red. The ladies in the audience were going bananas as their man stalked the stage away from the mic stand. His arms motioned, like a conductor, the end of the song.
Then came “Wasted Light”. This had an earnest, acoustic opening. The thump of the bass drum was the song’s heartbeat.
“…welcoming, warm bunch of people”, Keating beamed. “Breathe”, came next. Drums were the kick of life to this one, heralding an almost transcendental moment. Soulful backing vocals were almost rooted in gospel, with the organ sounds evoking that feeling, too.
“…why I feel this is the best tour I’ve ever done”, he proclaimed. He was also keen to stress he had his recent wedding in Scotland, too. Thus leading into song, “Landslide”. Those neon lights now went from red to rays of sunshine, glowing red through to orange. It was touching, endearing and from the heart. The tom work on the drums was sombre yet moody. That red to orange then went to purple.
Next up was a slow one. At this point it was noticed that two little kids were holding aloft a sign in tribute, probably, to their mother’s musical equivalent of George Clooney, desperate for some attention from the Dubliner. He did, however, urge the crowd to come on and sing the words back to him during “If Tomorrow Never Comes”, a Garth Brooks cover. The light was beaming down upon the crowd, to make them the stars of the show.
“…you can feel the whole room change… it’s an absolute blessing”, Keating said, commenting on the good vibes he was getting. This, and him jokingly telling his Aberdeen audience to “take your minds out of the gutter”, teed off “As Long As We’re In Love”. This was rousing, the dramatic drums making for some high intensity. Things went from the pulsing moments seen earlier, to absolutely pulsating in the present. The driving tempo stopped for the vocal and acoustic refrain. Good dynamics.
There were a sea of people standing to get a closer look as he wandered to the side of the stage, shaking the hands of an appreciative, eager audience. This amidst “The Way You Make Me Feel”. The drums for this one built to a crescendo, dipping just prior to some heightened dynamics.
“Ronan, I love you”.
“…I love you, too”. And so arrived the sitting on stools moment, very, let’s say, Boyzone. Accordion gave this one, “She Knows”, a folky feel. His voice soared and seared with pain, endured in the name of undying love. This passion perhaps highlighted in “…let it rain on me”.
“In Your Arms” came after a curious, rather amusing, intermission. Keating struck upon the fact that every time his former band, the aforementioned Boyzone, were mentioned, the crowd would go crazy. So he exploited this to comic effect upon his dizzyingly fanatical following. Each time greeted with whoops and cheers. Rowdy, daresay rambunctious. Anyway, this one was unchained yet delicate. The flute was evocative of Ireland. Or Celts, in Scotland’s case.
Speaking of which, “…only in Scotland, I love that”, closed that particular number. “Falling Slowly” was much like the previous, tender and soft. It then built with rousing power. Come the swell, lights all pointed to focus upon him.
“My One Thing That’s Real”, on the other hand, was hard, its almost industrial drum, kicking into, actually, a very soulful song. It was lively and rousing, then dropping down just to drums. The vocals were almost spoken. Organ was the lifeblood of this one, with a final flourish greeting the song’s end.
Keating then went onto list some of the duets he’d done over the years. Elton John, Pavarotti, Cat Stevens and LeAnn Rimes. Speaking of the latter, “Last Thing On My Mind” was next. This was mournful, yet inspiring, with the chemistry between him and the, suitably female, backing singer was evident. One of the highlights of the night.
“Let Me Love You” was unusual and electronic, yet sounded quite organic. The beat of the drum was infectious and addictive. Again, a Celtic feel, slightly. The backing vocals implored football esque chants from the crowd. It wound down nicely, another show of good dynamics.
Lines like “find a girl, settle down” cued “Father And Son”, originally courtesy of the aforementioned Cat Stevens. Apparently, a duet with the latter came about despite the fact Stevens had pledged not to sing anymore contemporary music. This one had a triumphant guitar solo, but otherwise it was quite a sedate and sombre affair. However, Keating’s voice then rose with considerable power.
Following this was “Think I Don’t Remember”. Ode to Ireland, seemingly, as the neon lights turned green. He almost yelled during this one, the band falling out at the drop of a hat, the shock of his volume a jolt and immediate.
Another moment the expecting audience were arguably waiting for, “When You Say Nothing At All”, arrived, a Keith Whitley cover. This, of course, was a singalong with the crowd. Meaningful and decidedly Irish, the key change was uplifting. With that change it also seemed to convey that certain restless, Celtic spirit rising. The flute accentuated all this, rousing, stirring that certain part of us all.
Another cover came via Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”. This was driving, energetic. This invoked the crowd to go bananas.
Yet another moment the crowd were hotly anticipating was “Life Is A Rollercoaster”. By this point everyone stood up, singing every line. The music swelled with elation, and in tandem with the crowd this feeling seemed to at least double, the latter urged to clap in time to the lone drummer. Motioning the song’s end was, yet again, that conducting arm of Keating.
“It’s not just a song” introduced encore, “One More Song”, a Boyzone track. Its restraint became, in essence, unbridled. The song breathed, with some clarity, the main passage before clattering with some power. He ended this hinting, “…maybe next year with the ‘boyz, see what happens”.
He closed proceedings with what sounded like a “Purple Rain” type ballad. This, the second encore, though, was the aptly titled “The Long Goodbye”. Its guitar outro, seemingly improvised and nothing like the studio version, was much akin to Prince’s crowning glory, and was surely a nod to the late superstar. So much so, this reviewer certainly did hear others in attendance, at the end, make similar comparisons. It was, however, a small bone of contention, evident by the ladies in the crowd, and they were innumerable, going mad for Keating in the closing moments. Bar that, an excellent night all round.
You can buy Ronan Keating’s February album, Time Of My Life on iTunes. Keep tabs on Ronan Keating on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and on his website.
Words by Andrew Watson