A Celebration of Life03/12/2011 05:26
TV Buzz throws Westlife a leaving do to toast the lads' final ever TV special before they head off on their farewell tour...
"Why is it beers always taste better on day two?" ponders Shane Filan, as he relaxes in a cosy East London snug with his fellow Westlifers Mark Feehily, Nicky Byrne and Kian Egan.
The day before, the band were filming their final ever TV special Westlife: For The Last Time late into the evening. That, combined with some after-show drinks with friends and family, means they're struggling a bit today. "I had three kids jumping on me at 7am," says Shane, dad to Shane Junior, one, Patrick, three, and six-year old Nicole, "but now Im ready for a beer."
The TV special in many ways heralds the beginning of the end for Shane, 32, Mark, 31, Nicky, 33 and Kian, 31, which will culminate in an emotionally-wrought last tour for their fans (and the boys themselves) in May next year.
Managed by Louis Walsh, signed by Simon Cowell and championed by Ronan Keating, Westlife have never been the coolest kids on the block. But they've outlasted all their rivals and sold an incredible 44 million records worldwide. And we'll say they're definitely not as clean-cut as they look. Which are all reasons worth cracking open the bubbly and beers for. "But not shots," grins Shane. "One Direction can do the shots now. It's their turn...."
WESTLIFE ON... THE EARLY DAYS
Nicky: My first gig with the boys was at Beat On The Street [a live music event]. Louis got us free denim and buffalo boots like Emma Bunton had - we looked like a mix of the Spice Girls and B*Witched!
Kian: We were miming this song called Good Thing into head mics that weren't even plugged in.
Nicky: I couldn't dance, so I got stage fright. Louis was always on at me: "Work at your dancing!" It was appalling, but hilariously funny. I thought the other lads were going to kick me out!
WESTLIFE ON... FALLING OUT
Nicky: It's uncanny - every band is different and every band is the same. We've all had the same arguments, wants and needs.
Kian: The whole debate Steps had about who sings the lead, we've had that. They could never accept Claire was the best singer, but Nicky and I knew that Shane, Mark and Brian would be doing a lot of the lead vocals and accepted whatever was best for the band from day one. That's why we've lasted 14 years, because we've dealt with those issues head-on.
WESTLIFE ON... LOUIS WALSH
Shane: For Louis, Westlife are the success story of his life; his pride and joy. He's very protective of us. If a journalist or TV show says anything bad about us, he'll be straight on the phone to have a go at them.
Mark: He's allowed to say whatever he wants to us but if anyone else does, they're in trouble!
Even when the split was all finalised, Louis couldn't help but throw in: "Is there any way...?!
Shane: He's devastated that Westlife are ending, but he knows we're right to leave Westlife while we're still at the top. Louis said to us: "I respect your decision. I'm not delighted about it but I know it has to be done."
WESTLIFE ON... SIMON COWELL
Kian: We wouldn't be sat here today without Simon. I was saying to Louis the other day, if Westlife ever get back together, the first person we should do it with is Simon Cowell. He's the one who knew how to get it right. He picked every hit we had for 14 years.
WESTLIFE ON... THEIR BIG BREAK
Shane: The real 'punch the air' moment for us was when we won Record of the Year with Flying Without Wings in 1999. We celebrated with Louis and Simon, drinking champagne. Simon was so massively into our career then, he just sat there planning what to do next.
Mark: It was between us and Ronan Keating, and we beat him. Ronan had been our mentor and it was like he'd created a monster!
WESTLIFE ON... BRIAN MCFADDEN
Kian: We thought it was all over when Brian left. We just looked at the history of bands like Spice Girls and Take That after Geri and Robbie went.
Nicky: Brian was the Robbie of the group. But that had never bothered us until we were at an awards show in Dublin and Kerry Katona had just won I'm A Celebrity - all the questions at the press conference were direct to Brian about Kerry. Things started to go pear-shaped after that...
Kian: Any time we see Brian now, we want to be around him because he's a great character. Would we bring him back, Robbie -style, for our last ever live show? [Smiles] If he was as big as Robbie Williams, maybe.. but he's not!
Nicky: Brian featured on the Greatest Hits album, though. We're not blanking the guy.
Kian: But at the end of the day, he still left our band. He said to me in LA recently: "Would we not do something together?" and I was like: "Brian, why would we, man? you can't just walk back in when you decide you want to." A part of me does think it would be a great moment for him to walk back on stage. I just don't think that's now - maybe in the reunion in 20 years' time. We've had to make such a big decision to bring the biggest thing in our lives to an end, and it's the four of us who have kept it together.
WESTLIFE ON... BAD BEHAVIOUR
Nicky: We made one real error with a drinking session in Dublin. It was a Friday and we were supposed to fly to the UK the next morning. There was a private jet booked, but it couldn't take off and because we were all b******ed, we cancelled the show. We got battered by Louis. We were young and, to be honest, full of ourselves.
Mark: We've had some great lock-ins when we've wanted a few drinks and tell the bar manager we'll lock up after them. If we're feeling in an extra flamboyant mood, we'll offer bribes just for them to stay open for an extra half hour.
WESTLIFE ON... THE MISSED HIT
Mark: Daniel Bedingfield said he sent If You're Not The One to Simon, but he just sent it back saying: "No thanks."
Shane: That song was massive. Marky would have nailed those high notes. It would have been a Westlife classic.
WESTLIFE ON... THEIR RIVALS
Kian: When bands like One Direction and JLS have The X-Factor behind them, it's a much bigger platform to launch from. But it's also going to make the fall a lot bigger. The Wanted have a better chance than any of them because they've come up the ranks slowly and gone into music the normal way. After 14 years, knowing wha we know now, I'm not sure I'd want to be part of a boy band via The X Factor.
Nicky: But finishing now is a reality check for us. It's the circle of life. Westlife really aren't that important. We're a boy band. We did some amazing things but when you're living it, you think you're the most important thing on the planet.
WESTLIFE ON... THE FINAL TOUR
Shane: We want our last show to be at a very special venue, somewhere like Wembley Stadium. I'm already getting emotional thinking about that very last song. When we come off stage after that and Westlife is over, our lives change forever. I just wonder what that feeling's going to be like. It's very scary, the thought of it. I'm not looking forward to that at all.
WESTLIFE ON... THE FUTURE
Kian: It's going to be different for all of us. I'm honestly keen to sit on my a**e and let it get fat! Although from 1 January, I'll be a Dad. I've already been doing some judging on the Irish version of The Voice. It's a very different show to The X Factor - it's got a much nicer feel to it - so Louis hasn't been giving me any tips.
Shane: I'd love to keep singing after Westlife. I have absolutely zero plans, as you've got to get a record deal first, but it'll be sorted out over the next nine months. Deep down, we all know that we still want to work. None of us want to retire at 32 years old.
Nicky: If Shane or Mark were to do a solo project, we'd all be there [clicks fingers] in an instant.
Mark: My wedding will be next year at some point when we can do it properly [Mark is engaged to British fasion photographer Kevin McDaid]. We've got nothing to prove to anyone, so we'll get married in our own time, but we do want it as soon as possible.
WESTLIFE ON... THEIR LAST NIGHT OUT TOGETHER
Kian: I'm not sure the last night out is ever going to happen with us. There will always be another night out!
Shane: But we've been talking about coming up with something that'll just be for the four of us when all this finishes. We might go away for a bit of a p**s-up - the four of us. No partners, no managers, no anybody. Just us four.
Watch it! Westlife For The Last Time - Saturday 17th December - ITV1
Credit/Source: TV Buzz [Printed edition]