Westlife star Nicky Byrne has reflected on the band’s history ahead of their first Wembley Stadium appearance, saying the Irish group’s hiatus led to “two completely different bands”.
Byrne, 43, got to know Westlife alongside Shane Filan, Mark Feehily, Kian Egan and Brian McFadden. The band disbanded in 2012 after 14 years of success, before reuniting in 2018.
Speaking about the changes he’s witnessed since the band formed in 1998, including the departure of McFadden, 42, in 2004, Byrne told the PA news agency: “To be honest with you, it’s weird, I think we actually are like two different bands.
“The band we are now and the band we were from ’98 onwards are two completely different bands.
“Obviously we’re the same people and all the hits we had in the early years are fundamental to the continuation of our career. However, we had a seven-year sabbatical in the middle of it all, and I think we all grew up during that time.
“We got together as kids, we did it 14 years in a row, we lost Brian after five years, then we had eight years without Brian, people forget it was so long after Brian, we didn’t stop.
“And then when we broke up in 2012, we literally looked each other in the eye and we went: this is it.”
He added: “So when we were all ready to get back into the band, we all had a different approach to how we saw Westlife 2.0.”
After reflecting on the legacy of the band, which has secured 14 UK number one singles and eight number one albums, Byrne looked back on the growth of the fan base.
“We came back on stage after seven years and we saw at the concerts in 2019 that the people, the fans, also seem to have grown up and enjoyed the break,” he told PA.
“Suddenly we have boys coming to the concerts, husbands, boyfriends, partners of our younger fans who are now women and boys who are now men. I don’t know how to explain it.
“It’s almost like a family day out, there are now kids who come to the gigs who have no idea who Westlife are but their parents bring them, there are lads who come who have never liked Westlife but this is a great evening”. So have we changed? I would call it unrecognizable.”
Looking to the future of the band, Byrne did not rule out the use of AI technology, similar to that used by Abba in their current Abba Voyage concert residency and recently praised by Sir Mick Jagger.
He said: “I haven’t seen the Abba show in real life but I’ve seen clips online and it looks phenomenal. I don’t think Westlife are at any stage where we need to consider something like that, nor are we anywhere near the legacy or level of Abba or The Rolling Stones, but we keep surprising ourselves.
“I mean we’re going to Wembley Stadium for the first time in our lives… And there are things in the time when you’re going, ‘this isn’t slowing down’.”
Ahead of playing Wembley Stadium for the very first time on August 6 – which will also be broadcast live to cinemas across the UK – Byrne added: “We’re ready for one of the most iconic, if not the most iconic, stadiums in world.
“We’re not taking it lightly because we’ve never played at Wembley Stadium. All the things we’ve been through, 23 years, everything from number one to losing a band member to marriage and kids.
Adding: “We’re leading up to something quite emotional actually.”
Westlife – Live From Wembley Stadium will be broadcast at 8.30pm on Saturday 6 August. There will be extra screenings at 3pm in the cinema on Sunday 7 August.
For more information and to find movie theater locations, visit westlifeincinemas.com.