Westlife's grand finale at Croke Park

Sat, Jun 23, 2012, 01:00

WESTLIFE PLAY their last-ever concert tonight at Croke Park in Dublin, bringing to an end a massively successful 14-year career that saw them selling 44 million records and selling out arenas around the world.

Four empty stools will mark the spot where the quartet – Nicky Byrne, Kian Egan, Shane Filan and Mark Feehily – once straddled the charts, scoring a staggering 26 UK top-10 hits and 14 UK number one singles, and seven chart-topping albums.

For fans who couldn’t get tickets for tonight’s farewell show, the concert will be screened live by satellite in cinemas across Ireland and the UK from 8.30pm, and across Europe. This will be a final chance to sing along to such hits as Flying Without Wings, You Raise Me Up, World of Our Own and Uptown Girl.

Last night the group played their penultimate show at Croke Park in front of 80,000 fans, with support from Lawson, The Wanted and Jedward.

The foursome took to the stage under clear blue skies and launched into What About Now. Cian Egan welcomed the crowd to “the biggest weekend in Westlife’s life”, adding, “Ireland, you have really made the four of us feel very special indeed.”

After ballads, including Coast To Coast and Safe, the band upped the tempo with their cover of Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, dressed in blue blazers. In an unexpected – and poignant – move, the group brought their parents and children out onto the stage while they sang Queen of My Heart.

In another surprise move, the quartet temporarily ditched the ballads and ripped into Kings of Leon’s raunchy Sex On Fire, followed swiftly by Robbie Williams’s Let Me Entertain You and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

They were determined to go out with a bang, not a whisper.

Manager Louis Walsh has said Filan will embark on a solo career in an attempt to become “the male Adele”.

Filan recently declared bankruptcy in the UK following the collapse of his property empire, so he will most sorely feel the need to keep the royalties rolling in.

Westlife’s success was not just down to their singing talent or ability to change key in the final moments of a song.

With Walsh as their manager, and a pre-X Factor Simon Cowell as their AR man at RCA, the band moved swiftly into pole position as the biggest boyband around, conquering Europe, Asia and southeast Asia, but never managing to crack the US market.

The writing has been on the wall for Westlife for some time. Their 2011 single Lighthouse, penned by Gary Barlow, stalled at number 33 – the band’s worst chart placing. Going out on a high in front of 170,000 fans over two nights may just be the smartest move of their career.