Gig: Bros, O2 Arena

Review Bros 02 Arena

The shit storm UK pop duo Bros have had to stare down over the past 30 years could have broken lesser men. Born out of the ’80s pop laboratory that placed flash, excess, image and 10,000-watt star quality dead centre, 18-year-old south London twins Matt and Luke Goss (and their pal Ken) revelled in the excitement of their celebrity, and the opportunity that it gave them to travel the world and be creative. They shared this with an adoring audience. Unfortunately their success, as so often happens, also produced a persistent strain of spiteful criticism and a ferocious eagerness from their detractors to bring them down.

Bros O2 ArenaThe UK press has made it their business to this day to find every nasty, unkind, ill-mannered and disrespectful angle it could muster to support their opinion that Bros were a joke. Similarly, social media commentators have used the opportunity of Bros’s 28-years-in-the-making reunion gigs this past weekend to accuse them of profiteering, selfishness, arrogance and exploiting fans. Hardly surprising then that Matt and Luke moved to America a long time ago.

During a recent interview, Luke in fact made a point of thanking presenters of ITV This Morning for their unexpected support – probably because Bros are not used to media support in their home territory. Imagine coming to perform in your own country, to your own community, and not being assured of support or kindness other than that from your fanbase.

Bros O2 ArenaThe general newspaper and digital media coverage has been super-predictable: despite hundreds of positive Twitter comments, The Sun uses a handful of negative comments on the ITV appearance as their mocking headline; The Guardian review of one of the O2 gigs drips condescension with snide comments like “the band hardly struggles to cram in all their hits”; the Financial Times proves how clever and above frivolous pop it is by using “döppelgangers” correctly in a sentence.

A friend and I recently debated why the Bananarama reunion tour – due later this year – seems to have been met with nothing but enthusiasm and celebration, whereas Matt and Luke’s has been constantly dogged by an undercurrent of smug, sarcastic glee and an air of suspicion. The only conclusion we could come to was that Bananarama presented themselves as somewhat poise-free girls next door who weren’t particularly good at their craft yet possessed a great deal of charm and likeability, whereas Bros and their management styled them in a way that perhaps made them seem more serious, untouchable and therefore easier to take pot shots at. Bananarama set themselves up as nothing special, which the public seems to have warmed to, while Bros set themselves up as stars, which the public loves to see fall.

Bros O2 ArenaThere is a poignant irony lurking amidst all of this. If you paid enough attention to Matt and Luke back then, or over the subsequent decades as they carved out successful careers for themselves in America (Matt as a Vegas singer; Luke as an LA-based action-movie star), you might have noticed that beneath the chiselled cheekbones and trappings of celebrity, they were always gentle, warm, soft-spoken, loving boys who are exceedingly kind to their followers. They frequently displayed their affection for one another and their fans and, as far as I can remember, never had a bad word to say about anyone. Quite why few commentators other than their fans noticed this, or choose to ignore it, is beyond me.

Bros O2 ArenaPressed to make sense of it all, one wonders who the villains in this story are: two young boys who, fuelled with excitement to make their dreams come true, grabbed stardom with both hands and gave their fans a ride they would never forget, or ill-tempered observers who take pleasure in hurting others with bitter mockery and malicious muckraking. I know which way my vote goes.

What a glorious vindication then for Bros – and their unfathomably loyal fans, who waited 28 years to nail their colours to the mast once more – to be able to revel in their mutual love of music at London’s O2 arena on August 19 and 20. What a great opportunity to focus on Matt and Luke’s fierce determination to spread gentleness and happiness, rather than on a certain kind of journalist’s bloody-minded insistence on superior, self-satisfied sarcasm.

Bros O2 ArenaTalking to enthusiastic Brosettes before and after the gig I attended was a beautiful thing. Decked out in their tribal garb of leather jackets, ripped jeans, James Dean insignia, red neckerchiefs, and black Doc Martens with Grolsch bottle tops attached, their joy was infectious and life-affirming.

Myself an honorary Brosette (I could never quite wrap my head around the clumsy male moniker of a “Bro”), I was unable to be physically present for the first bout of Brosmania in the ’80s as I grew up in South Africa, but to my surprise, many of the Brosettes missed out on the first round of gigs too because their mums wouldn’t let them go. This was their and my opportunity to share an experience we thought long passed.

All that glitters

Review Bros O2 ArenaOn to the show. A stylish and ever-cool Matt could have given Kylie a run for her sequinned hotpants, bedecked as he was in rhinestone eruptions the weight of which could have crippled a less robust trooper. Luke was our rock god for the night, resplendent in black threads, tributary Soundgarden T-shirt and plastered fingers to protect those drummer’s hands.

Together the boys and their band ripped through the hits (I Owe You Nothing, Too Much, Drop the Boy), the fan favourites (Are You Mine?) and two new tracks (the Stevie Wonder-tinged family-first feel-good Love Can Make You Fly and the reconciliation-focused Garden of Forgiveness, which the boys used to highlight their photos of present and departed family members). This led effortlessly into the single honouring their late sister Carolyn: 1989’s Sister. Robbed of its haunting chorus, and augmented instead by crashing drums, I felt something had been lost from the original, but it was a powerful moment nevertheless.

Bros O2 Arena

Sadly absent was the funk workout of 1989 hit Chocolate Box and my two favourite album tracks: Money from 1989’s The Time, and Never Love Again from 1991’s Changing Faces. Instead, the set list was understandably built mostly around the multiplatinum-selling 1988 debut Push (all tracks performed except Love to Hate You) and its lesser-known tunes that became anthems for the 1989 Bros Live In 2 Summer Wembley gig (It’s a Jungle Out There; Ten Out of Ten).

I won’t let you down
Bros O2 Arena

Shirley Lewis

Frequent George Michael collaborators, bassist Deon Estus and vocalist Shirley Lewis (Luke’s wife), joined Matt and Luke on stage for a warm tribute to a fellow fallen soul boy on George’s Freedom 90.

The synth stabs of The Big Push Overture (a 1988 instrumental b-side made up of Push favourites) were an appropriate aural backdrop to a stage-screen display of the Brosmania photo album: japes the lads got up to back in the day, and plenty shots of the ever-loyal Brosettes.

Bros O2 Arena

Deon Estus

A mercifully punchy ending of signature tune When Will I Be Famous? provided a welcome relief from the usually overblown and drawn-out encore procedure. Sweaty and satisfied, the Brosettes had nothing to complain about. Now if only someone could make those social media commentators and journalists that happy….

Set list: I Owe You Nothing / Shocked / I Quit / Are You Mine? / Changing Faces / Too Much / Cat Among the Pigeons / Garden of Forgiveness / Sister / It’s a Jungle Out There / Liar / Love Can Make You Fly / Ten Out of Ten / Drop the Boy / Freedom 90 / The Big Push Overture / When Will I Be Famous?

Bros O2 Arena

The filling in the only sandwich that matters

47 comments on “Gig: Bros, O2 Arena
  1. Nikki Rouse says:

    The shows blew me away…. after the initial adrenalin filled excitement of Saturday, I was able to dance the night away to the even more tight production of the Sunday night. The band and backstage team we’re awesome throughout and Matt and Luke have, since their arrival, been so giving to their fans, giving precious time and love as always.
    We are so loyal as they are so kind and genuine. Truly beautiful people inside and out.
    I’ve had THE BEST weekend of my life …. 28 years in the making….and boy… was it worth the wait.
    Bros have not only provided me with comfort at times of pain but have brought some of the most amazing friends into my life…. and for this I will be forever grateful.
    Bros-downer is well and truly underway….. hurry back boys.
    Nikki.

  2. Anna-Louise says:

    I went on Saturday, as you said unable to go back in the day as my mother didn’t approve. I dragged my boyfriend along who quietly got up from his seat during I quit I think and joined us girls boogieing. It was a truly amazing show, so pure. I woke up on Sunday morning in a hotel in Canary Wharf with a dreadful handover but my first thought was how could I persuade my previously mentioned boyfriend to join me for the show again that night. Unfortunately my conscience took over and off we went to collect our child from her ever obliging grand parents. Brosmania is back my heart and my head. Rhodes boys have everything. Luck looked soooo happy, matt looked every once the showman he is. My Amazon echo has only played Bros since I returned and I am trawling Facebook for videos all day.

    Your article has hit the nail on the head for all of those fans that attended. For one night only I was a screaming fan, in love with those boys and was able to sing my heart out like I was 14 again.

    (I should have gone again in the Sunday!)
    X ❤️ X

  3. Natasha says:

    After losing my mum last year , this was the only thing keeping my spirits up . They were brilliant !! The UK press can do 1!!! , us loyal fans are so because we feel the genuine love the guys have for us fans . I for 1 will always love them

  4. natalie says:

    Sunday was quite possibly the best night ever. It reunited myself and my best friends from school – we have 100s of miles between us but have remained best friends. The love of Bros reunited us for a unforgettable night.
    All night i felt goosebumps – really couldnt believe i was actually there. Matt was so on point with his vocals and luke was on fire. What actually made my night was seeing all my fellow brosettes having an amazing time.

    I

  5. Mandy gibbs says:

    I went to concert on Saturday 19 August. It was so amazing show love all music and matt and Luke was amazing as well.my favorite songs its a jungle out there. I quit. Shocked.try two new bros songs love can make you fly.garden for forgiveness.when will I be famous.love see all brosettes.

  6. Karen Love says:

    Thank you for an amazing review . These two amazingly beautiful, talented , kind and thoughtful guys have never got the credit that they truly deserve . Xxxxx

  7. Michelle cattroll says:

    I came along Saturday eve and brought my partner along who missed the brosette era but really got the hang of it and was in awe of the effort made by everyone in the gear. It was a past I was able to share and felt like it never left me and I thank you Matt and Luke for the opportunity to become the teenaged girl I missed with the boys I was in love with all them years and time felt like it never moved it felt completely right and love in the room was incredible I can’t wait to share the new chapter with you welcome back xx 😘

  8. Lisa says:

    You’re absolutely right !!The british press never have had anything positive to say about Bros.They might have had a short time as Bros the band but WOW did they make an impact with it. I am part of the Brosette family and always will be. I had to lie to my mum to be able to go to Wembley stadium in 1989 and say I was going with a friend but I went on my own at 15 that is how dedicated I was and NOTHING in this world would’ve stopped me. I missed the shows this past wkend which I am gutted about I lost my sister to cancer this past April and have been in sad place but seeing all the vids on fb brought life in the Brosette back and next time I will not miss it for the world! And the british press should support Matt and Luke for making a mark in British history #Brosmania&Brosettes. They had fans that copied there clothes, we weren’t showing off all our skin in skimpy clothes. We had ripped jeans, bottle tops on our shoes and T-shirts and supported one of Britains most iconic pop bands in HISTORY. And they have made good out of their lives despite losing their mum n sister you’ve never seen bad press of them out drunk, crashing cars, drug abuse or loosing reality. They are very real and they are two lovely guys that contribute in the goodness in this world!! ❤

  9. Lara says:

    Love this article – look at my twitter feed @comedytiming and you will see nothing but positive tweets from one of the best nights of my life – Bros were and still are brilliant in my eyes!

  10. james cook says:

    Now thats a review for once a reveiw from some one that was their that felt the atmosphere and took in the awe that was no that is BROS im a BRO aleays have been always will be im fed up of narrow minded reprters who probably never even attended one presenter on wave 105 said they played 5 songs and ty goodnight 5 cmon really not including the intro 17 sat 16 sunday .the show rocked it blew us away matts vocals were on point as always lukes drumming blew us away after all tjose years not playing he smashed those drums to bits and his duet with matt drove the crowd mad matt and luke have never failed to amaze us fans and i hope they never stop its thursday im not yet on bros blues im still revelling in 2 very awesome nights ty matt and luke and all your team and ty for this incredible review that really does the boys credit

  11. Heidi says:

    Thank you for this 🙂 Me and my friend traveled from Finland to see Bros and it was totally worth the trip. We truly enjoyed ourselves on Sunday. Like you said, goosebumps all round.
    After the show I read few reviews online from UK press. I was totally astonished how negative the reviews were. It was like we were attending in total different show than the one they narrated.
    I have read the autobiographies from both of the boys, but only now I truly understand what they meant when they were speaking about the way the press treated them.
    Brosettes know better!

    • admin says:

      Yes Heidi – you are absolutely right: it’s like the press reviewers attended a totally different gig from the ones we experienced! x

  12. Tracy Baird says:

    Thankyou for writing a positive and accurate review.
    You were spot on with your comments of the UK press surrounding the boys back in the day and also now. Bros were 1 of the biggest bands of the 80’s – 90’s but never get the recognition they deserve.
    I was fortunate enough to attend Wembley which was a dream come true and amazing and to have the opportunity to see the magic again ….well I cannot explain the feeling.
    I felt very emotional waiting for the performance and what a show they brought it – and some! I’m not sure the roof has been returned to the o2 yet..lol.
    Freedom was incredible ….no-one could have done it better.
    Old memories now mixed with new to hold onto forever.
    Thankyou to Matt & Luke x

  13. Carrie Ann Green says:

    It was the most amazing weekend, I flew in from Spain and from landing to departing I had goosebumps and tears of joy! Well worth the 28 year wait!!! I do so hope this happens again 😊😊

  14. Catherine Cubbin says:

    There were 3 generations of brosette from my family attending the shows last weekend. I took my mum on Saturday, took her back home to Cardiff on Sunday and turned around got back on the next train to London with my little girl ( she’s 7)so that she too could experience the Bros mania for herself. I had the weekend if my life and it was fuelled by passion and love for everything Goss. There was a lot riding on this for us brosettes, not many of us will admit it but I’m sure we were frightened in case it didn’t live up to our 30 year old fantasy. We needn’t have worried. It was everything we could have hoped for and much much more. Their love for each other and their fans was like a big fluffy blanket being wrapped around us all and we were incredibly happy to snuggle down under it to watch the show of our lives. Thank you for providing such a refreshing review, you are truly appreciated for not being a usual humdrum negative ‘journalist’

  15. Sharon says:

    I never got to go when I was 15 so this was the night I’ve been waiting for my whole life! I cried from
    Start to finish!
    I loved them then and I love them now! Matt was my first love and will probably be my last haha!

  16. Dee says:

    What an amazing show…Matt showing off his guitar and piano skills was amazing..changing the music to the lyrics was like hearing a new version. I loved Bros in my teenage years and met them at their house in peckham..waiting with all the other loads of brosettes. It was like one big family…brought back some happy times singing along to the tracks, was great to see shirley lewis..luke was a star on the drums. We loved the show. It had so much meaning. I now will did out my signed bros vinyl and think how thankful I am.
    would definitely love to see another show – its a shame about “craig logan” but the boys smashed it!!!!

  17. Liz Frisby says:

    An amazing show, loved every minute of it and I’ve never sang along to so many great tunes, Sister is now an all time favourite. Attended the after show party but had to leave before meeting the boys 😕 maybe next time. Looking forward to the next show. X

  18. Lee Baldwin says:

    Me and my mum had the most amazing time on Sunday. The show was full of energy, excitement, the musical talents of Matt and Luke were exceptional, in fact breathtaking! Matt’s vocals were faultless, I could’ve listened to his voice for hours on end, and Luke’s talent on the drums were mesmerising. Such a well thought and put together concert, brought back such wonderful and amazing memories, in fact I can’t stop playing my Bros albums to remind me. Highlight was the build up to When will I be famous…just wow! Just gutted I didn’t get to meet you both, didn’t find out about the meet and greets until that weekend, would’ve made my childhood dreams come true but maybe in another lifetime X

  19. Jayne says:

    I relived my youth, I loved the boys when I was a teen. When I heard their was going to be a concert I was definitely going to get tickets. I saw them on Saturday 19th and they blew me away loved the night and can’t wait to see them again in London next year I hope xx

  20. Jeremy Bunting says:

    Exactly as it says on the tin! Bros have exceeded the expectations of its fan base that has supported them for the near on 30 years we had waited for this reunion. Different emotions were shed all throughout the concerts (on both nights)… All I can say is Bros is back & may they stay for us all who have waited so long for this come back! The Boys rocked…& let’s not forget the fastest selling out at the O2 EVER!

  21. Kandi A says:

    I went to both shows and was completely blown away!!! But… then Bros always knew how to put on a Show and get the audience and venue ROCKING!!!
    Matt absolutely ruled the stage & Luke was ace on the drums!
    The boys have definitely come back stronger & are phenomenal LIVE artists & their connection with their audiences #SecondToNone #BrosAreBack 💥👊❤️

  22. Melanie Ludlow says:

    Thank you! Finally someone else “gets it”. I’m so over Bros being called a “boy band”. They never were-they just happened to have been young boys in a band. The British press love to hate but as the boys say the only opinions that matter are the fans… and we LOVED it.

  23. Veronica Fenton says:

    It was the best two nights of my life!!! I missed out the first time round, but those two nights definitely made up for it 😆 Bros are most definitely back. I can’t wait for the next one!

  24. Rachel Bancroft says:

    At last a review fitting of the gig. Refreshing to read a review that has focused on the production of the show,new arrangements and vocal/ drumming performance of Matt & Luke.I thought it was amazing.

  25. Claire sweter-millar says:

    A great gig review. There was so much love in the room for the boys. Went back to being 14 again. My only gripe like you was no Chocolate box or Madly in love. But aside from that I can’t complain all the hits and favourites were there. Hope we don’t have to wait 28 years again.x

  26. Tracy Kraushaar says:

    I never got the chance 28 years ago. But finally had my childhood dream come true!! Had such a brilliant night! Hope we don’t wait another 28 years!!

  27. Kym says:

    What a great true article.I was there on Saturday the boys were amazing as was the atmosphere.I was lucky enough to see them in Edinburgh when I was a teen,and relived it with my 15 year old daughter who is now a fan.i hope they come back soon as on a downer can’t believe it’s over already 🙁

  28. Catherine March says:

    I was lucky enough to be allowed to see them gig on the push tour in my home town. It was my first ever live gig (I was about 12!) and so there was no way I was going to miss this one.

    This write up is spot on, it was everything I could have hoped for, with updated arrangements making the arena bounce! The highlight was just to see Matt and Luke’s faces whilst we all sang their songs back to them. It was just beautiful.

  29. Rachel says:

    I flew in from Florida especially for the concert at the O2. It was worth every mile and every penny. It was absolutely fantastic. I have always loved Bros and been a fan for years and never thought they could be any better but they are. They are back and they are better than ever and I’m so excited for Matt and Luke 🇬🇧❤️🇺🇸

  30. lesley liddell says:

    best night of my life.waited 29yrs for my first gossy hug and they are genuine guys.been a loyal brosette since i was 14.my love and loyalty never left them.the music blew me away.lukes drumming on sister gave me goosebumps and matts vocals are smooth as silk.i cant wait for the next one and i am fortunate to have had the experience,wild horses wouldn’t have kept me from that concert and ive made a lot of friends since joining the bros forums.no other band have the loyalty and base like these guys do nor do other forums build friendships like these i found 5 soulmates through Bros and i forever thank them…love you matt & luke

  31. Daniel Gray says:

    Matt and Luke are surrounded by an amazing team who also deserve a huge mention here. Between them they brought many dreams true when the dreamers amongst us never thought that this could happen.

    I saw them back in the day… and both have matured tremendously as artists.

    I too waited 28 years to see them again and they really didn’t disappoint. This reunion was huge for me. I chose this day to propose to my girlfriend of 14 years as I always said I would only pop the question on a day that already meant so much. Matt / Luke and the Bros team gave me that day and that platform…. and better still… we were invited to the aftershow party to celebrate our day by the Bros team. They didn’t have to do that… but they did… they are magnificent people… and I thank them all from the bottom of my heart.

  32. Kelly Asker says:

    I was at the 1989 Wembley Stadium concert with 77,000 other fans. I was also at the opening night at the 02 (19th Aug) Nothing could be prepared me for what I experienced at the soundcheck nor the actual concert. Those 2 18yr old boys from Peckham have certainly gained a new respect from ‘newer/younger’ fans, aswell as the loyal one’s from way back when. Both Matt & Luke couldn’t have made those 2 days any better. The show was NOT a disappointment to any of us & was a welcome reunion of 2 much loved & cherished souls. We waited a very long 28 yrs for this to happen & the 10mths from purchasing tickets to the actual concert, felt longer than the 28yrs of the last concert. Seeing my pictures up on the big screen from Wembley 89 was an added bonus. A day in my life that I will NEVER forget xx

  33. Diana O'Reilly says:

    The boys even said during their show for some reason they always have to push harder than anyone else.

    But all you had to do was look around the arena during their song ‘Jungle’and see the thousands of happy fans joining in.

    https://youtu.be/2ZD_L3ebIlM

    It was heart warming to watch on the 2nd night to take it all in. The first night was a blur to me of screams, tears and jaw-dropping moments that Bros were finally back on stage singing our life long favourite songs.

  34. jen says:

    I was at the 02 on 19th aug it was 28 years since i see the boys at wemebley 1989 they was amazing awesome as they always are glad bros are back bros forever until the end matt and luke i love u matt xxxxx

  35. Helen Phillips says:

    My daughters Caroline and Julie are and always will be Bros fans. Their dad Tony Phillips took them many times
    to see Luke in Camberley and Matt was with him sometimes.They were even invited into Luke’s garden by Luke. I have also met them aswell. They have always been polite and stopped to speak to them even tho sometimes they really didn’t have time to stop. I dont know why some of the press gave them a hard time, maybe the press should have taken time to speak to Matt and Luke then they would have known how nice they are.

  36. Sharon says:

    Best weekend I have had in a long time. Matt and Luke rocked it as only they can.

  37. Ellen jones says:

    I attended Sundays concert and sound check fulfilling my bucket list of only two things meeting them and seeing them in concert! Being a diehard brosette this was long awaited n I loved all of it ! The soundcheck was amazing tho I was dumb struck by seeing them all I could manage was I’m ok now when asked by both if I was alright! I got hugged so tightly by both n kissed! The concert was out of this world I’ve never seen any other so brilliantly done ! The audience were jumping up n down singing along the songs the lights the fire the smoke it was all amazing! Their entrance onto the stage so exciting I had goosebumps waiting to see them n it was not at all disappointing! Matt n Luke are both so kind hearted loving and sincere and I will always remember everything about it ! Hopefully they do it again as I’d love that!!! X thankyu for giving them an honest review n you are welcome as an honarary brosette Shane!!!! Xx bros ARE back!!!

  38. Omg these 2 concerts were nothing short of totally amazing… one of the best concerts ever..actually I’d say equal best with Pink…you guys are crazy awesome… Bring on Australia

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