by guest blogger Janina from RonanKeatingNews.com
Venue: Newcastle City Hall (Newcastle, UK)
Newcastle City Hall is one of those smaller concert venues – an elegant, charming old building that seems to have its own personality. A lot of the time, the atmosphere in these smaller venues is the best. Its inherent intimacy makes everyone almost feel like they are an intrinsic part of the performance.
I had really been looking forward to this night, but with Ronan having suffered from the flu quite badly for a few days and struggling to get through his show in Manchester two days before, the Newcastle gig was at the risk of being canceled or rescheduled, and countless fans on Twitter were almost urging Ronan to stay in bed and recover instead of taking to the stage. But determined not to let anyone down, Ronan decided to go ahead with the show. And so, by 8:30pm, an anxious crowd was waiting for the concert to begin so they could show him an extra amount of support to carry him through the night.
The stage is set up with a portal-like circle of colored light bars at the top of a couple of steps in the centre, and the musicians spread across the stage on either side.
The show begins with the band coming on stage and playing a short intro, which blends into the first chords of the opening track, ‘Fires’ (the title track of Ronan’s new album). Ronan enters the stage through the black curtain at the top of the steps just seconds before breaking into the song’s first verse, leading to massive applause and screams from the crowd. His stage outfit consists of black skinny jeans, a white V-neck t-shirt and a black jacket, along with black boots – the smart but casual, natural look he is known for.
His voice sounded much better again after a day off and some much needed rest, and he looked in better form again too. He still wasn’t able to reach most of the higher notes and had to skip the odd line here and there, but his voice was almost completely back to its usual strength.
Ronan’s stage presence in general is very remarkable; he feels right at home on stage and usually has the audience at his feet within minutes, thanks to his outstanding vocals and charming banter in between songs. Despite still battling with the flu in Newcastle, and coughing and sneezing a couple of times, this show was no exception – the crowd loved him and he loved the crowd. When the band paused after the first few songs to let Ronan speak to the audience, the clapping and cheering wouldn’t stop and he was visibly touched by all the love that was evident in the room. He explained that he’d been ill and had woken up that morning feeling even worse than the day before, but had still decided to travel up to Newcastle and see how he felt when he got there. He then said he’d been to see a specialist at the hospital who’d examined him, “and she said -” which was interrupted by a lady in the audience shouting “LUCKY COW!!” This of course had everyone in stitches, including Ronan himself. He told us that despite the doctor advising him to rest, he’d decided to “f*ck all that” and go ahead with the show because of us all who had bought tickets to see him. Needless to say, the crowd burst into excited cheers once more.
Ronan put things into perspective when he spoke about a young girl that he had met backstage before the show – 18-year-old Jodie, who suffers from a rare tissue disorder and is putting all her energy into raising funds to help other children who are sick. He asked us to support her if we can (feel free to visit the link http://www.facebook.com/jodies.journey.9 but be warned – it is heartbreaking) and explained how he realized that despite feeling poorly with the flu, he had nothing to worry about. It’s moments like this when you understand that most of your own little problems actually mean nothing.
Highlights of the show have got to be all the new songs from Ronan’s latest album ‘Fires‘, which we hadn’t heard live before – the older songs will always be crowd favorites but it’s the new material that gets me really excited. ‘Wasted Light‘ sounds even better live than the album version does; it’s got the same catchy anthemic beat to it but the guitars give it an acoustic touch. ‘Love You And Leave You’ is another little gem that sounds absolutely fantastic live, and very different to most of Ronan’s past material, which makes it both refreshing and exciting.
Ronan’s live performance of ‘Easy Now My Dear’ is absolutely breathtaking and showcases the real quality and intensity of his voice. The song feels even more emotional after Ronan’s brief introduction, talking about how the last three years have been very chaotic and different for him, with his life changing tremendously due to his own actions, and explaining that he wrote this track right in the middle of it all. Listening to the lyrics, it’s difficult not to get tearful. Throughout the whole show, he was continuously thanking people for their support over the past years and it was obvious how grateful he is that we still come to see him and buy his albums.
Another “ballad highlight” of the set would be ‘Scars’ from Ronan’s 2009 album ‘Winter Songs’ – a song which, as he shares with us, had no real meaning to him when he recorded it, but has great relevance to him now. Unfortunately, he had to skip this track in Newcastle because it’s his voice and his vocal range that makes the song, and he still had to be careful not to strain his voice too much.
‘Friends In Time’ is the perennial “feel-good” song that everyone enjoys, and just before it starts Ronan gets the crowd that little bit more excited by taking his jacket off and displaying his muscular arms. To top things off, he plays the guitar to this song, and I’ll admit it doesn’t get much better for me – I could watch this for hours. Another song he plays the guitar to is ‘If You Love Me’, a beautiful catchy uptempo track from his first album.
One of my favorite songs on the ‘Fires’ album is ‘I’ve Got You’, and this is another one that sounds even better live – really energetic, accompanied by brilliant lighting effects, with the color changing between red and blue for verse/bridge and chorus. You can see in Ronan’s face during this song that he feels the lyrics.
After the powerful ‘Close Your Eyes’, Ronan and band leave the stage and the lights go out. Of course we all know he’s going to come back for an encore, and after a short while the musicians return to their instruments and the familiar intro to ‘When You Say Nothing At All’ begins, to the delight of the audience. Ronan reappears, now dressed in a short sleeved black and white skull print shirt with the top few buttons undone. His famous (at least at concerts) long note at the end of the song is shorter this time due to his illness, but he still delivers a fantastic performance. After this track, he thanks us once more for our support and for getting him through the night, and reminds us that… “Life is a Rollercoaster“! With this anthemic number, the show ends on a high; everyone is singing along and clapping with their hands in the air. Finally, Ronan and his band gather center-stage, put their arms around each other and bow down to the crowd a few times before leaving.
This was definitely one of the most memorable shows I have been to, because even though Ronan wasn’t 100% well, it shows what a true professional he is and just how brilliant he is at his job. The crowd’s support was unbelievable and these are the nights that really stand out. We hope you make a speedy recovery, Ronan!
RADIO ALERT: Ronan Keating’s music is a fairly regular staple on our station Radio Creme Brulee. “Oxygen” by Ronan Keating is getting 5 plays a day on our station while “Wasted Light” and “Nineteen Again” are getting 2-3 plays each per day. IF you are reading this on a mobile device (smartphone, tablet etc.), CLICK HERE to listen to our radio station. If not, listen to our station from ANY part of the world by clicking on the button below.