Another season in the sun for the lads
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