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23.05.2018

It’s only when we edge to the very fringes of the crowd to cool off and grab a drink that we notice the epitome of #RelationshipGoals. Aunty’s gorgeous two-tone silk saree gleams in the stage lights. Uncle is at his dignified best in a starched shirt and trousers so well-pressed, their creases would give any young whippersnapper who dared to run his mouth the cut direct.

He’s singing along to the cheesiest best of ‘Boyzlife’ - Keith Duffy of Boyzone and Brian McFadden of Westlife, who passed through Bangalore this weekend - serenading his wife. She’s beaming so wide we can’t help but smile back giddily in empathetic girlish delight.

Pardon our extra-tender hearts. It’s just that we are 17 again and listening to the music of our teen years in the backseat of the family car on a summer holiday. Except we’re actually 30 and poolside at the extremely yuppie JW Marriott on this balmy Sunday evening, bobbing along to the sound of former teen idols crooning sweet nothings into their mics.

The effect hasn’t changed over the years. We start off the evening exchanging eye-rolls with our companion, just like we did back then. Why are we spending a perfectly good Sunday listening to people sing about dying in someone’s arms because you’re so overcome with love? These days we only feel this way about food, and even so have no plans to expire in the embrace of tender galouti kebabs.

Duffy and McFadden, under the controversial portmanteau name of their respective super-hit boybands, is on the final leg of its India tour. It’s clear from the very outset that these pop stars have practiced the art of pleasing the most particular of posses. An uptempo cover of Westlife’s World of Our Own has all of us dancing along like we’re clutching deodorant bottles in front of our bedroom mirror. Eyes brim over when they sing about a Special Someone thanks to whom we can fly without wings. They fulfil a longstanding dream for one lucky lady who gets to climb up onto stage to sing a duet before a cheering crowd. And they are kind enough to record the entire experience for posterity: the kind of fan service we deserve all the time, surely.

We were only here for irony and mockery. That was our story. We wanted dinner party joke material. Our infinitely patient and far less world-weary companion wisely refused to indulge us. You secretly love it, don’t even bother denying it, he intoned, before the show. Having arrived much too early to the concert, and forced to listen to an opening DJ, we were ready to abandon our unsympathetic plus-on for the drinks and “techings” - hey, we weren’t old enough to buy booze the last time we heard these voices - by the coupon counter. But grown-up life had other plans for us.

Neither McFadden nor Duffy are the saccharine scrubbed-clean avatars they were likely forced to be when they first burst upon the scene. They’re now heavily tattooed fathers of college going teens, expert at delivering put-downs to chatty fans (yes, really). Such is their star power - pre-Mars-exploration star power, even - that their very appearance banishes any lingering residual grumpiness among the waiting crowd. Taking charge with ease, they guide us along the full spectrum of hormonal capital-F Feelings we thought we’d all stopped feeling ten years ago.

Grown men and women around us are emoting along to every over-the-top expression of sincere, undying love with all of their hearts. It isn’t just die-hards falling for the charms of a pair of smiling Irishmen, however. This is our companion’s first proper concert, and he is enthralled. The songs are unapologetically wholesome (not a single twerk appears throughout the entire evening), perfectly suited for this sweet, sweet boy who still believes that words can take your heart away. Maybe love is really still alive.

A far too quick 45 minutes later, the boys(-to-men) thank us for a wonderful evening, promise to come back soon, and take our leave. The traditional chant of “one more song” rends the night air as we grow suddenly aware of how much our feet hurt. Concert seating needs to catch on. Musicians get to stage dive - it’s only fair we get a lie down too.

Then the lads march back onto stage. The first notes of Uptown Girl ring out and we are on our feet again. We jump dizzily with everyone - our companion, strangers, fellow cornballs. We warble along to every oh-oh-oh. We’re looking for our downtown man. We pray his ship comes in. We’re sick of our white bread world. For this one night, we are not so tough, just because we’re young, and in crazy, stupid, love. Some 90s things you don’t need a hashtag to remember.

Sushmita Sundaram writes about funny people, odd things, and anything edible. Follow her on Twitter at @sushmitas.

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