Arts

Keith Duffy on Boyzone's final Irish farewell at Féile an Phobail

Irish pop giants Boyzone play their final Irish gig in Belfast next month during Féile an Phobail. The Falls Park show on August 10 will be the Féile's biggest ever concert and comes in the wake of Boyzone's sold-out SSE Arena gig in January. Jenny Lee quizzed Keith Duffy about their momentous past and his future plans

Shane Lynch, Ronan Keating, Keith Duffy and Mikey Graham are set to perform their last ever Irish gig at Belfast's Falls Park

HI KEITH, are you looking forwarding to headlining Féile and giving Belfast a second goodbye on your final Thank-You & Goodnight tour? Belfast has been good to you over the years.

I can't wait, it's going to be quite an emotional night. This will be Boyzone's last gig in Ireland and there is no better place to have it than Belfast. The two best places to do a concert are Belfast and Glasgow as the audiences put in so much energy – and in Belfast we always get taken up to another level.

I remember as a teenager voting for Boyzone in a Smash Hits Roadshow gig at Belfast's Dundonald Ice Bowl. Do you remember the gig?

Absolutely, that's how Boyzone broke into the UK market. We toured all over the UK and Ireland playing with bands like PJ and Duncan, East 17, Bad Boys Inc and all the old bands back in the day.

We were a new band on the road and the viewers had to vote for their favourite new act. We won the vote and got to perform on the live televised Poll Winner's Party in London and that sky rocketed our music and our career.

Apart from falling ill in Asia, have you enjoyed your farewell world tour?

I got very, very sick in Thailand. I had a temperature of over 40C for three days and had a 72-hour seizure – it was very scary. My wife was at my bedside and she was very frightened as I was jaundiced and my kidneys and liver were failing.

Thankfully, they managed to bring down my temperature and I recovered to travel onto Australia with the band to finish the tour. I had a full-body check-up in Ireland when I got home and thankfully everything is OK and I'm doing great.

Other than that, we've had a wonderful year. It's bittersweet because it's our last year together, but the audiences have been phenomenal.

Why did you decide that this was the year to call it a day?

When you start off in a boyband when you are 18 and then you wake up and you're 45 years of age and you're still in a boyband, it just doesn't seem right. It's the nostalgia that keeps us together, but we had to move on.

How do you think you will feel performing with the band in that final gig in London's Palladium on October 25?

I'm sure we will all be upset. We're very grateful for the success and to go out on a high and be remembered as the band we are. It would have been a very different story if we decided to call it a day and the tickets didn't sell. The fact Thank You & Goodnight has been such a success, means we walk away proud and with our heads held high.

How would you like Boyzone to be remembered?

Simply as honest, hard working Irish lads that did well. We've our mammy's to thank for that.

Are there any of the members of the band who still act like they did in the 1990s?

We're all dads and we've had to grow up and mature. Our kids range from two years of age to 23 and we have to be respectful and lead by example. But when the doors are closed and the four of us are together, we go on like absolute stupid teenagers.

We have our own language, our own silly jokes no one else would get and we even have a funny way of speaking to each other. That's what's great about being in the band – it brings you back to your childhood and gets rid of the worries and stresses of grown-up life.

Boyzone sold over 25 million records sold worldwide with hit singles such as Love Me For A Reason, Father and Son, Words, Picture of You, and No Matter What. But which Boyzone song means the most to you?

Isn't It A Wonder was a song we wrote ourselves and released very early in our careers. It was off our first album and it was the first video we shot outside Ireland, down in a place called Broken Hill in Australia.

I had never travelled before, so to wake up in a mining village in the middle of Australia and get to drive a Harley Davison across the desert, with the guys alongside me in an open Cadillac singing a song we had written ourselves, was amazing.

It was a time before ego, money, fame and all the bulls*** that goes with the business. We were excitable, appreciative and happy – and, for all those reasons Isn't it a Wonder will always be the song that is my favourite memory of Boyzone.

Original Boyzone member Stephen Gately died suddenly of an undiagnosed heart condition in 2009. Did you make a point of paying tribute to him by recording the song I Can Dream for your final album?

The original Boyzone line-up included Stephen Gately (centre) who passed away in 2009

Absolutely. To hear the big man's voice after so long is special. On October 10 he'll have left us 10 years, so to have his voice with us on this song just completed the circle and finished off a Boyzone chapter.

Since 2015 you have partnered up with Westlife's Brian MacFadden to perform a collection of your bands' hits as Boyzlife. Are you planning to continue this collaboration?

Absolutely. Next February we are launching a new album that we are recording at Abbey Road with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring six of Westlife's number ones and six of Boyzone's number ones.

It's really special and will be followed up with a tour. We're also going to record a studio album at the end of next year with all new songs and a new sound. Boyzlife will become a big item, I think.

We've see you on our screens in Coronation Street and Love/Hate. Would you like to do more acting in the future?

I will never say never, because it's something I love to do. But my passion with acting is not on the screen, it's in the theatre. I love the fear of straight theatre.

Standing in the semi-round waxing lyrically in a JB Keane play is what gets me going.

:: Boyzone play Belfast's Falls Park on August 10 as part of Féile an Phobail. Tickets via Ticketmaster.ie, for full festival programme visit Feilebelfast.com.

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