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Westlife to re-form for new music and tour

The Irish boyband will re-form as a four-piece, without original member Brian McFadden (second from right), who quit in 2004

THE Irish boyband Westlife are re-forming six years after they split. Nicky Byrne, Kian Egan, Mark Feehily and Shane Filan are to release new music and go on tour. Brian McFadden, who left the group in 2004 to pursue a solo career, will not participate.

They announced their comeback in a video in which the four convene on stools, in a nod to their live performances: Westlife would often sing their ballads perched on stools and rise to their feet to indicate an impending key change.

The reunion coincides with the 20th anniversary of the group’s formation. Manager Louis Walsh, who had created the successful boyband Boyzone, signed the group in 1998. It was the height of the teen-pop explosion, a bubblegum era minted to take advantage of the teenage spending power that had powered the Spice Girls’ success two years prior.

Although bands like the Spice Girls, Steps, B*Witched and 5ive were all aimed at a very young market, they were rambunctious compared with the clean-cut Westlife, who frequently appeared clad in white and cultivated a strong fanbase among older female audiences.

Their debut album, 1999’s Westlife, featured five UK No 1 singles, including that year’s Christmas No 1, I Have a Dream/Seasons in the Sun. Their chart success did not earn them critical favour. In 2012, Walsh said he didn’t mind whether people liked them: “I could not care less. People did the same with the Bee Gees. Westlife are not hip or trendy or cool but they’re very fucking successful.”

By the end of the 2000s, Westlife had enjoyed significant chart success, with 11 No 1 singles and a total of 14 weeks in the top spot. They announced their split in 2011, saying it was time to “have a well-earned break and look at new ventures”.

Successful reunions by Take That and Boyzone suggest a similar outcome for Westlife. In 2016, Forbes ranked the reunited Take That as the second highest-earning boyband of the century, after One Direction. – theguardian.com_