Theatre Royal, Norwich July 6, 2022
by Adam Aiken
Tonight begins with a supporting set from singer-songwriter Rosie Smith. Her lower register is initially hard to hear over the guitar and drums, but that minor gremlin is quickly ironed out.
It can be hard to be the aperitif ahead of a widely-anticipated main course, but Smith quickly wins over the room.
There are a couple of covers thrown in, including Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, but what really stand out are a couple of Smith’s originals – My Friend Ben, written about her late guitar tutor, and Dirty Harry.
It’s a necessarily short set but it’s a good opportunity for Smith to show off her wares, and she’ll have made a few new friends this evening.
Goodness knows what it was like back in the days when Ronan Keating was in Boyzone, but if the women of a certain age here tonight were the teens who attended his shows back then, they’ll have made one hell of a racket.
Not that everyone here will have been able to follow the entirety of Keating’s career as there’s a good helping of younger fans who won’t have been with us first time around.
But it’s no puzzle why his fan base spans the generations as his repertoire includes so many songs that have become permanent fixtures in the nation’s musical psyche.
Keating also retains an engaging stage presence. Perhaps some of his jokes sound just a little too well scripted, but he remains a proper showman.
He has his self-deprecating quips but there are also some deeper moments, such as when he talks about his former bandmate and friend Steven Gately.
It’s in songs such as In This Life – which Keating sung at Gately’s funeral – Falling Slowly and a cover of Damien Rice’s The Blower’s Daughter where the singer’s vocal ability really stands out.
Another highlight is the mid-set acoustic section, which sees the band gather round on high stools for a handful of songs, including a well reworked version of No Matter What, showing there’s more to Keating than simply doing it by numbers.
The rest of his band are not too shoddy, either. Although Keating is the main attraction, they are far from being simply bit-part players, and collectively they make up a tremendous all-round package.
The tour is called All The Hits, but that’s a given, really. Although the running order might be tinkered with from night to night, you can pretty much guarantee what 95% of the songs are going to be. And that’s why we’re here.
The main set closes with The Long Goodbye – a song that could have been dedicated to the prime minister as tonight his government is imploding while he desperately tries to hang on for grim death.
(Perhaps Keating is chuffed with those developments, given his spot-on comments earlier in the show about the unfairness of the government’s lack of support for so many in the creative industries during the pandemic.)
But this is a feelgood evening, and politics feels a world away from this room.
There’s a “warning” on the tickets that looks like it was composed in the Victorian era, stating that “some patrons might dance during this show”. But there’s no “might” about it, with Keating getting people on their feet from the get-go.
By the time it all comes to an end with an extended encore performance of Life Is A Rollercoaster, if there’d ever been any suspicion that Keating would simply go through the motions to cash in on his earlier career then that’s long gone.