An­other sea­son in the sun for the lads

Irish Daily Mail - - It’s Friday! - Eoin Mur­phy’s GREEN ROOM

THIS week I broke the story that Westlife would be play­ing Croke Park to mark their re­union to the world of pop mu­sic. I was watch­ing with in­ter­est as the story went around the world on Tues­day when it first ap­peared in the pa­per and then on our sis­ter web­site Evoke.ie.

My Twit­ter feed was in­stantly inun­dated with fans from around the globe who were des­per­ate to know if this news of a new tour was true. I re­ceived a num­ber of hys­ter­i­cal di­rect mes­sages from fans as far away as the Philip­pines who want to fly to Dublin for the Croke Park show.

So I know that when the band de­cides to an­nounce their of­fi­cial come­back it will be a global event. Thus an­swer­ing any — and there were some — crit­ics of Westlife’s de­ci­sion to come back af­ter all this time. But of course this is mu­sic snob­bery in its worst form.

It is easy to be dis­mis­sive of the quar­tet and ig­nore all their many achieve­ments. The fact that they have sold more than 55 mil­lion al­bums on top of en­joy­ing 14 UK No1 hits should si­lence the de­trac­tors but, of course, be­grudgery is that most Ir­ish of things.

IALSO re­vealed that the band had inked a lu­cra­tive con­tract to em­bark on a lengthy UK and Ire­land tour in 2019 which will end with that Croke Park gig. The GAA venue played host to the lads’ two ‘farewell’ con­certs back in 2012 as they brought the cur­tain down on their 14-year ca­reer.

And this is where Westlife’s im­por­tance can re­ally be seen.

I was back­stage at both farewell shows and, in my 15-year ca­reer cov­er­ing en­ter­tain­ment sto­ries, I have never seen any­thing like the ut­ter dis­may when they fin­ished their set.

I looked on in sheer amaze­ment as fans whooped and hollered and cried when the band brought their fam­i­lies on stage to say good­bye.

Men and women wept when the lads ul­ti­mately called time on the songs that had made them a

global suc­cess as they went on to other things.

The mu­sic land­scape has changed since their de­par­ture.

Num­ber ones re­ally don’t mat­ter any­more and al­bum streams have re­placed al­bum sales. In the six years since they have re­tired their sin­gle Up­town Girl has been streamed 45 mil­lion times alone.

Swear It Again has amassed 28 mil­lion streams and, all in all, their back cat­a­logue has been streamed more than 300 mil­lion times.

Any­one who thinks that Westlife are no longer rel­e­vant sim­ply can’t ar­gue with the num­bers. What

peo­ple fail to un­der­stand is that Shane, Kian, Mark and Nicky did not take a break be­cause they had hit some creative wall. They called time on the band be­cause af­ter 14 years to­gether they were jaded as a group of guys.

They had grown up and got mar­ried liv­ing in each other’s pock­ets and they just needed time apart, to raise kids and reimag­ine what life is like not be­ing on tour or liv­ing out of a suit­case.

Each one re­leased a solo al­bum, and man­aged to achieve per­sonal goals as in­di­vid­u­als, all of which paved the way for this re­union

tour. There is lit­tle doubt that this come­back would have hap­pened were all four mem­bers not per­son­ally and pri­vately ful­filled.

You won’t find four harder-work­ing singers on the planet than these guys. I know them pretty well at this stage and I be­lieve the ru­mours that they are plan­ning some­thing re­ally special for their new shows.

The in­evitable Late Late Show per­for­mance and the ITV1 doc­u­men­tary will whet your ap­petite but it is only when they go on tour that we will re­alise what the Ir­ish mu­sic scene has lost since their

de­par­ture. Like the re­turn of Take That, ex­pect a global frenzy as fans cham­pion the re­turn of their he­roes. Those four stools will be dusted off and re­turned to the main stage along with a high oc­tane per­for­mance which will in­clude some solo ma­te­rial, as well their back cat­a­logue of hits.

When the band takes over Croke Park again next sum­mer, it will be a won­der­ful oc­ca­sion.

I, for one, will hap­pily dust off the denim jacket, pink cow­boy hat and glow -in-the-dark bunny ears and get ready to get down to Up­town Girl. Wel­come back lads.

Westlife: (l-r) Kian Egan, Mark Fee­hily, Nicky Byrne and Shane Fi­lan

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