live reviews: Boyzone Royal Albert Hall

'Steven, the little one supposed to be Mark Owen, has the most screechy, horrible Smurf voice I have ever heard'
Silhouetted behind scarlet curtains, Boyzone almost looked like an attractive proposition. They almost looked like Take That.

The Beatles/ Herman's Hermits, Ice T/ Vanilla Ice, Madonna/ Debbie Gibson, Take That/ Boyzone. For every ground-breaking superstar, there is a whiter shade of pale imitation. These people generally have everything in the right place - the face, the moves - but nothing extra. Look at Jayne Mansfield. What was the point when Marilyn Monroe already existed? The public likes competition. The girls screamed just as hard for Boyzone as they had for the mighty Take That. Still, it's not quite fair to say that Boyzone take- off of Take That wholesale. They had East 17's garb down perfectly.

Fluorescent orange baggy trousers announced Boyzone's presence - it certainly wasn't their charisma. Because all their songs sound the same, they have to do a lot of costume changes. At one point, they took the stage dressed in foppish suits with walking canes. Wow - Boyzone do Menswear. One of the five was on crutches; as the others did the hip thrusts, he was forced to stand at the back of the stage and nod his head. Since Take That are down to four, it seems the ideal time to drop the invalid.

What of the songs? "So Good" is alright in a crap kind of way. It almost rocked, losing its nerve at the last minute, but was at least better than the mock sincerity and slushy ballads that dominated the rest of the performance. Steven, the little one supposed to be Mark Owen, has the most screechy, horrible Smurf voice I have ever heard.

The lacklustre, dirgey encore "Love Me for a Reason" is obviously the song that welcomes you into hell. The apex of awfulness was Mikey's cover of Cat Steven's "Father and Son". The sound of thousands of 11-year-olds screaming the words to Yusuf Islam's finest moment was the stuff of nightmares. Even the snobbiest pop cynic would admit that Take That are brilliant at what they do. On no level are Boyzone interesting. They aren't good in a kitsch way, and you can't hide behind post-modernism. I came away certain of one thing: the genius of Cat Stevens.

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