RICHARD BATSON Blickling Hall
It was like a giant hen party. Ten thousand mostly female guests screaming at four men on stage as they sang, danced and thrust their hips.
But this wasn't the Chippendales in the club. It was Westlife by the lakeside.
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Fuelled on champagne, wine and alcopops, picnicked out on salads and cake, the al fresco girls' night out was in the mood for their Irish idols by the time they took the stage.
Shane, Kian, Mark and Nicky rose slowly over the horizon of the back of the stage, four abreast, like gunslingers in Officer and a Gentleman white outfits.
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You could feel the collective weakening of knees in the sea of womanhood stretching out before them.
Hit them with a big one to start with. One of the earliest of more than a dozen number ones, which makes them almost as successful as the Beatles, Elvis and Cliff. Flying Without Wings - appropriate for a boy band who had earlier swooped into Blickling Park by helicopter.
Cheers accompanied each new singer as he took his line, to the adulation of that section of the crowd who have him marked down as their favourite in the foursome.
Fireworks signalled a more up tempo number. The women - from schoolgirls to grannies - began to boil. Hands, camera phones, balloons and banners were held aloft as the party got under way.
For one group it really was a hen night. Veiled Rachelle Margitson from Horsford, sported her “bride to be” sash, and was surrounded by family and friends, as they celebrated her impending marriage to fellow Bestway taxi driver Jon Collen.
She said “We like Westlife because it is music you can dance and sing to, and they are nice looking lads.”
Nearby another set of fans bridging the generation gaps were 20-year-old Maxine Friend from Hethersett, and her family ranging from a nine-year-old little sister to a 60-year-old granny.
Maxine had seen Westlife six times before, and was sporting a banner saying “Free champagne for the Westlife boys” - but the offer was not taken up. And the banner had to be taken down, at the request of the stewards.
The 75 minute set ranged from schmaltzy ballads to Michael Jackson style funk. It was a show of slick choreography, constant costume changes and hi-tech projections - which also brought Diana Ross into the arena to sing with the boys.
The “covers” rolled more relentlessly than during a wet week at Wimbledon - Mandy, Uptown Girl, Seasons in the Sun, Addicted to Love. But the crowd lapped it up. A night of ballads and salads to remember.