Westlife in tune with Chinese fans


Chen Nan
Friday 21 January 2022 12:36 GMT
Westlife performing in Beijing August 2019
Westlife performing in Beijing August 2019 (LIU JIAHAO / FOR CHINA DAILY)

The Irish boy band Westlife held its first virtual concert through a Chinese social media platform, WeChat, on 17 December 2021, and attracted 27.9 million viewers.

During the two-hour concert, in London, Westlife performed hits including Seasons in the Sun, You Raise Me Up and My Love.

They also amazed their Chinese fans by performing a popular Chinese song, The Ordinary Road, by the singer-songwriter Pu Shu. The performance was viewed more than 72 million times in three days.

In an interview after the concert, the group’s members said that they have been discussing the idea of a livestreaming concert for their Chinese fans for a long time, and they were “completely blown away” by the number of people who watched the virtual concert, “which exceeded all of our expectations”.

“It was great to see the comments in real time and to see how fans were reacting,” they said. “We can’t wait for what’s next and also to come back to China to tour.”

During the virtual concert, band member Kian Egan said: “When we performed old songs, memories came back. To sing these songs 20 years later, it still feels special and fresh.”

They fell in love with The Ordinary Road when they first listened to it and they learned the lyrics through English translation, they said.

Performing at a music awards ceremony in Macao in December 2019
Performing at a music awards ceremony in Macao in December 2019 (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

According to WeChat, the virtual concert’s organiser, both parties agreed to have a Chinese song included in the concert. The Ordinary Road, featured in a Chinese movie titled The Continent in 2014, is hugely popular among Chinese music lovers. The song, which tells a story of growing up and coping with life, fits well with the music style of Westlife, the organiser said.

“The lyrics are beautiful. We spent countless hours on Zoom with a teacher who helped us all individually to learn our parts. It was a really fun and enlightening process,” the band explained.

During the virtual concert, they received messages from their Chinese fans, some of whom have been listening to their songs for 20 years.

“I went to all of their shows when they came to China and I can sing all of their songs,” one fan said in a message while watching the concert. “There are lots of memories, and it’s so exciting to watch their concert online.”

Another wrote: “Because of the pandemic we cannot have you here in China but it is good to see you singing onstage again for us, When you performed The Ordinary Road I was very touched.”

Westlife was one of the earliest Western pop bands to become popular in China. For many of its Chinese admirers, born in the 1970s and ’80s, the band was their first access to Western pop music.

“We didn’t realise how popular Westlife was until we landed at the airport in Beijing,” band member Nicky Byrne said during the concert, speaking of their first trip to China. “There were thousands of people there waiting for us with greetings.”

Another member, Shane Filan, said: “When we performed shows in Beijing and Shanghai three years ago we saw lots of fans waiting in the parking lot after the shows, which was a big surprise. Music for us is all about feeling. We can pass this feeling to our fans. We make them happy, which is the best feeling in the world.”

Previously published on Chinadaily.com.cn

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