Ronan Keating

Final curtain call for Boyzone, Ireland's pop supergroup

Boyzone on stage in Belfast in January at the start of their Thanks You & Goodnight tour.

Boyzone on stage in Belfast in January at the start of their Thanks You & Goodnight tour.

Boyzone, Ireland’s first true pop supergroup, are ready to take their final curtain call.

More than two decades since they first got together, the band are about to tour Australia for one last time when they arrive with their Thank You & Goodnight tour this weekend.

The 'boys', now all in their 40s, have decided to let go of the vehicle that brought them huge success.

Boyzone burst onto the scene in 1994, scoring hits in the UK and Irish charts with songs like Love Me for a Reason, Key to My Life, Picture of You, Father and Son, Words and Baby Can I Hold You.

Shane Lynch reflects on the early days, describing their sudden fame as “a hell of a ride”.

"I was 17 years old and kind of catapulted around the world just not really knowing what lay ahead, just being on a crazy adventure,” he tells the Irish Echo from Dublin. “But I was lucky enough to experience some major things with the other boys. Some of it is very vivid and some of it is very poignant in my life and then some of it is a distant memory like it never even happened."

Put together by pop mogul Louis Walsh in 1993, the band was originally made up of Ronan Keating, Keith Duffy, Stephen Gately, Mikey Graham and Lynch. Although some of them had promising careers and sports scholarships, the five lads from Dublin gave these up to pursue a career in music. They quickly became the biggest pop group to have ever come out of Ireland.

"I think the magic times for Boyzone were, without a shadow of a doubt, the 90's that brought us our huge success. I think probably the best memories for me is when we got back together in '07, '08, those kind of times when we were fresh in our minds and it wasn't such a mad ride anymore.

Boyzone on stage (from left) Shane Lynch, Mikey Graham, Ronan Keating and Keith Duffy.

Boyzone on stage (from left) Shane Lynch, Mikey Graham, Ronan Keating and Keith Duffy.

“The way music worked had changed and you weren't really going from radio station to radio station anymore. It all became a lot easier in the noughties and I think those are kind of the best memories for me. The blur factor of the 90's, it's hard to pinpoint anything that was a highlight as such. I think the highlights really came in our older stages and just being able to enjoy being a band."

Lynch, who took part in last year's Celebrity Big Brother and also regularly competes in motor racing, says the current farewell tour has been a great excuse to hang out with his old mates.

“We really don't get to hang out anymore, it's only a blessing if our paths cross at any point. We don't get to call around, 'you wanna play football?' It's not like that. When you have children, it just all gets a bit distant. It's almost like a continuous stag weekend when you go on a tour, it's a celebration of the joyous moments. We're very blessed to be able to do it."

Over the years, the 42-year-old has also come to terms with previously undiagnosed dyslexia which, he reveals, made it very difficult for him to read tour schedules or autocues in the early days.

"It was the 80's when I went to school, dyslexia wasn't really a thing and it was just more that you couldn't read and write or you were a troubled kid or whatever.

"I was able to hide it for those (Boyzone) years and it was just as I became older, I found my real confidence to be able to say, 'Actually, you know what? I actually can't do what you guys do'.

“All the Boyzone boys didn't know for many, many years. As it turned out: Yeah, I'm massively dyslexic. I wish I took that journey on that path many, many years ago. A lot of people say the school system let me down and all that stuff, it really didn't. I let myself down. I'm the one who didn't say anything.

"It became a great thing in the end because it built my character into who I am today in a survival test of things. That said, life could have been very difficult and it can be very difficult for people out there who can't read and write and are scared to go back.

“They're horrible times and horrible memories, those kind of schooling times so to go to adult education or to find out you can get to read and write the older you get, it's a lengthy process but I would advise anyone out there who has any sort of problem like that, not to be afraid."

The other members of Boyzone have had differing levels of success since the original split in 2000.

Ronan Keating, 42, has enjoyed huge success as a solo artist and spends a lot of time in Australia with his second wife Storm, a Queenslander. He has also appeared on a number of Australian TV shows including All Together Now and X Factor.

Keith Duffy, 44, has been acting on screen and stage since breaking into a new career with a part in the long-running TV soap, Coronation Street.

Mikey Graham, 46, trained as an actor after Boyzone split in 2000 and has made a number of TV appearances including in TV3’s Celebrity Apprentice Ireland.

The group were hit by tragedy in 2009 when original member Stephen Gately died of natural causes. He was 33 years old. The band, the nation and the world were shocked by his untimely death. Lynch says Gately continues to inspire the remaining Boyzone members.

"It's coming up to ten years now that we've lost Stephen and ten years is a long time and without a doubt, time is a great healer. What we try to do in our show is to make it a celebation of Stephen also.

“He was an amazing part of Boyzone, amazing character and without a doubt very much missed amongst us as a group, let alone as a friend gang and a guy that I would have grown up with.

“The way to miss him, it's not necessarily a tear to the eye, it's more of a smile. There's a lot of emotion for sure that runs through the crowd and certainly has done on this tour. It gave different emotions to different people and I think that's what music does, that's exactly what music is all about. When we meet up and we talk about Steo, we celebrate Steo. It delivers different impacts for different people but for us guys, we're definitely there to celebrate it."

While Lynch savours those early days of Boyzone he ‘lost it’ on The Late Late Show last year when host Ryan Tubridy showed a clip of the band’s cringeworthy first appearance on the show 25 years ago.

“I’ve busted my bollocks to get here. See that clip? You can shove it up your fucking hole,” Lynch told Tubridy on the live show.

Lynch laughs when asked about the outburst.

"You know what it was? It's kind of plain and simple and I, as a grown man, perhaps should have expressed myself in a little bit more of a controlled way but I guess I had had enough at that point. We all kind of lash out at times.

"My frustration was they invited us onto the show to celebrate Boyzone and talk about the great 25 years and to give us a real boost.

“The first thing they do is try and take you down or take you back to a time that was not nice for you. What I mean by that is The Late Late Show as we all know is not Boyzone's best time in life ever, it's actually the worst so it's like being reminded of being the dumb kid in school, the fat kid in school, the ugly kid in school. That was a hard time in Boyzone's life so to be kind of kicked in the bollocks by your own TV show, the biggest TV show in Ireland and to regress you back to those times was, I thought, very unfair. I think it was a nasty thing to do, it was like bullying at its highest level. Laugh it off because it's a TV show? No, I just felt I was being bullied at that point and I guess I came out kicking and screaming or expressed myself the way I did. That's just how I felt at the time."

Boyzone kick off their farewell tour at HBF Stadium in Perth on March 30 before performing at Adelaide Entertainment Centre on April 2, Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne on April 3, ICC Theatre in Sydney on April 5 and finally, The Star in the Gold Coast on April 6 and 7.