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Ronan Keating needs no introduction. He’s been part of our cultural landscape for years, pumping out hits since he was 17 years old, first as the stirring soul voice (and the equally stirring handsome face) of Boyzone, and then with a 20-year spanning solo career. But what may surprise some is that as a live act, he’s absolutely, genuinely brilliant. In his only live show of 2020, he wowed the crowds at the Virgin Money Unity Arena with a nostalgic night of boyband-style ballads, singalong belters and brilliantly chosen covers, all lapped up (and sung back at full volume into the Newcastle night air) by the socially distanced crowd in their pens of five. As he himself said on Twitter afterwards: ‘Wow, wow, wow. Did I say wow?!’. We caught up with him backstage…

Hi Ronan. What’s been the best thing about lockdown for you?

The best thing by far is that we had a baby girl. Coco was born at the end of March, four days into lockdown. It was remarkable, scary and unique but she’s just been the light in all of this madness, she’s just been gorgeous. To be there every morning for her waking up, to change every nappy and put her to bed at night, it’s been a beautiful experience.

And the worst thing?

Being away from everybody, our friends and family, not being able to see anyone or be around people and communicate. For me it’s been about this, about getting back performing again. I can’t wait, I couldn’t sleep last night. It was like Christmas Eve, it was amazing. I cannot wait to get up on stage and sing again.

Is bringing live music back again something you feel passionate about?

Very much so. It’s not just about me on stage, it’s about my musicians, and my crew, all the team that I’ve worked with for 27 years. The production team – it’s everybody on the road, the bus drivers, the truck drivers. There’s been no support. My guitar tech has been driving for Sainsbury’s for the past four months, and that’s fantastic, it’s wonderful that there’s been jobs there, but that’s the changes that have been happening within the industry.

We need people back working again, we need the government to pay real attention. People can sit next to each other on a plane, but they can’t sit next to each other in a theatre or at a live venue. If we’re clever about it – like we are at this venue with social distancing – we can get live music back up and running again.

What do you think of the set-up here?

I think it’s brilliant. I am so excited about it. I’ve done a lot of open airs across the country, the stately homes etc, and it has a similar feel. People come with their picnics and they’ll set up and they’ll have an afternoon or evening of music and entertainment and this will be the same. I can’t wait.

Watch our interview with Ronan Keating

Rachel Sullivan