Timewas turned back two decades upstairs at the Academy as East 17 took us back to the ’90s and the songs that made this band achieve 18 top-20 hits, four top-10 albums and sales of more than 20 million records.
Not a bad CV, but while their boyband contemporaries Take That can now sell out stadiums in seconds, East 17’s current incarnation is back to playing small club shows with a line-up that no longer features former lead singer Brian Harvey.
Harvey used to play Chicago Rock Cafes under the East 17 name, but now chief songwriter Tony Mortimer has once again teamed up with John Hendy and Terry Coldwell to get the band back on the road after previous aborted attempts at a full comeback.
In place of the departed Harvey is Blair Dreelan, a more than adequate replacement who was quickly receiving plenty of whoops from the predominantly female crowd.
Arriving on to the small stage to the sounds of police sirens and helicopters, reminding us of their badboy image, the four members of the band all stood next to one another and immediately launched into one of their best songs, House of Love.
This set the tempo for what was to follow, a run through of their greatest hits with not one duff note, except for new single Secret of My Life which just didn’t have the impact of the songs Ivor Novello award-wining Mortimer wrote in their mid-’90s heyday.
It was the classics that fans had come to the Academy 2 for, and it was the classics that they got: Around the World, It’s Alright, Pet Shop Boys cover West End Girls, with Stay Another Day, as much a part of Christmas music nowadays as Slade and the Pogues, appearing towards the end of the main set.
Someone to Love showcased Dreelan’s strong voice and a key change that Westlife would be proud of, while backing singer Julie took Gabrielle’s role on If You Ever, with many in the crowd singing both the male and female parts at the top of their voices.
It was that kind of night.