Steps at Plymouth Pavilions
FIVE, six, seven, eight: Steps kick off their intimate Christmas six-date mini-tour tonight when they'll be singing festive tracks from their new offering Light Up The World.
The pop sensation of the millennium, Steps became an item in 1997 and in just four-and-a-half years sold 20 million records, and charted 14 consecutive top-five singles, winning countless awards and selling out tour after tour around the world.
Ten years after the band split acrimoniously they're back to the surprise of all concerned – none more so than Ian 'H' Watkins, who still can't quite believe it's happening again.
"Over the years we had been offered so many different scenarios for getting back together," he said, ahead of tonight's Plymouth Pavilions date.
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"But when our label told us they were going to release a greatest hits record to mark ten years since the end of the group, it did feel like the time was right.
"We all had reservations," H continues, "but we thought that after all this time it was right to celebrate the good things, rather than dwell on the bad ones."
They came together for a one-off show.
"A reunion was never on the cards, but this became a monster we simply couldn't stop.
"After the greatest hits it all snowballed from there – it's been absolutely bonkers!"
Their four-part Sky documentary Steps Reunion had the highest viewing figures of any Sky show this year, while their Ultimate Collection rocketed straight to number one and tickets for their arena tour sold out in hours.
"We were really pleased that TV came on board so that we could explain what happened with the band.
"I have many happy memories, but we were very young and worked so hard that it really felt like you were on a treadmill, waking up with jet lag, not knowing which country you were in, missing friends and family.
"We had wonderful times – especially touring the US with Britney. Looking back I just wish I could have appreciated it at the time.
"But it's okay, because we're doing it all over again, it's incredible!
"Now, though, we're all good mates and we love each other with all our faults."
Ask H who has changed the most and he confesses that he needed to do so.
"I really was a rabbit in the headlights back then, I had a lot of growing up to do.
"I still do have ants in my pants on occasion – H stands for hyperactive and I've been called it since I was nine – but I have calmed down a bit."
Having had only an art college background and a stint as a Red Coat, at 20, when starting in Steps, since leaving the band H has honed his acting skills, with a course in musical theatre at the Royal Academy of Music, after which he has enjoyed lead roles in Joseph and Fame with various stints on TV.
He has had no trouble remembering words to Steps songs and dance moves when the band started rehearsals for the tour, though naturally the show has been adapted to be relevant to today.
"The live show is completely different from our arena tour," says H.
"We'll be singing all the songs from the Christmas album plus some Steps tracks we didn't do last time.
"It will be like An Evening with Steps – think Judy Garland at the Palladium.
"Chilled and mellow and intimate, a real thank-you to all our fans."