The boybands (or should I rather say, man-bands?) were back in town on Tuesday night to bring a colossal dose of Nineties nostalgia to the Symphony Hall, as A1, Damage, 911 and Five performed at the Birmingham leg of The Boys Are Back tour. As the stunning venue buzzed with anticipation for the Smash Hits’ favourites, it was clear that this time around it would notably be more of a family affair, as many of the original fans had grown up and brought along their own children, nieces and nephews to the concert.
Crowd-pleasers A1 opened the show with Same Old Brand New You, which encouraged everyone to sing along and dance from the get-go. Reminding the audience of the good old days of the Smash Hits’ Tour and The Big Bash, the band performed an energetic greatest-hits set including tracks such as Ready Or Not, Summertime of Our Lives and Caught In The Middle. Melting hearts all around the hall during their performance of Like A Rose, it is apparent that A1 have got even better with age, and I look forward to seeing what the next few years bring for them.
Before the concert I felt that if there was one boyband from the lineup that were going to sound spectacular in the Symphony Hall, then Damage would fit that bill. Sure enough; I was correct, and the soulful four-piece had some of the best harmonies and acoustics of the night. Songs such as Love II Love, Wonderful Tonight and Still Be Lovin’ You presented the perfectly charming side of the band, while set-closer Ghetto Romance sent fans in the audience into a frenzy of cheers.
911 may be the oldest boyband performing on this tour, but they certainly don’t seem to have slowed down at all over the years, giving a vivacious set full of singing, dance routines and even a backflip from Spike! The concert was on a Tuesday; but it certainly felt more like a party at the weekend as they performed Party People… Friday Night, A Night To Remember and Bodyshakin’. Part of the way through the set, the band danced to Apache by The Sugarhill Gang in the style of Will and Carlton on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air; which was one of the most amusing Nineties nods of the night.
Bringing the show to a close, Five raised the roof by playing hit after hit; including Slam Dunk Da Funk, If Ya Gettin’ Down, and When The Lights Go Out. Bromsgrove-born Ritchie Neville seemed to get one of the biggest cheers of the night, when he pointed out that it was kind of like a hometown gig for him and that he was marking the occasion by wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt. Despite Five making a name for themselves as rebellious bad boys back in the day, they closed their set with a heartfelt sentiment that is somewhat apt in the light of recent events; by encouraging the audience to ‘Be Kind’ to one another.