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MY SIDE OF LIFE - AUTOBIOGRAPHY [ADDED CHAPTER]: AMAZON
POP kings Westlife bowed out in style last night as over 80,000 screaming fans told them: Thank you for the music.
24 June 2012: The Fab Four brought the curtain down on their chart-topping reign at the top with a brilliant farewell concert in Croke Park.
The boyband have called time on a hugely successful 14-year career that saw them sell more than 44MILLION records and fill arenas all around the world.
More than 160,000 die-hards crammed into the Dublin stadium over the weekend to say an emotional goodbye to Nicky Byrne, 33, and Mark Feehily, Kian Egan and Shane Filan, all 32.
And Westlife gave them the two-hour show of a lifetime, including nearly all of their hits from Swear It Again to What About Now and Flying Without Wings.
As effigies of the famous foursome burned in the background, the lads kicked off with their hit single What About Now, before launching into What Makes A Man.
All four had tears in their eyes as they battled through their early favourites including Uptown Girl and If I Let You Go.
A visibly moved Kian told the crowd: “As this is the very last Westlife concert, the whole idea was to be able to get out here and see our fans one last time and celebrate 14 years. It has finally arrived.”
The band continued to struggle with their emotions through Queen Of My Heart, with Nicky Byrne prompting screams when he declared: “It’s like the biggest hen party I have ever seen in my life.”
Nicky also gave a shout out to the thousands of fans watching the gig live in cinemas around the world.
He said: “We might not have won the European Championships but we know how to have a party, don’t we Dublin?” as the crowd burst into, “Ole, ole, ole.”
Shane added: “It’s unbelievable. Tonight is the loudest, best crowd we have ever had.
“Last night was loud but this is unbelievable. Thank you. I’ll never forget this. These are times that will live in our lives forever.”
Mark also thanked the crowd, saying: “We are really glad you have shared this all with us. To look out there and see you guys is crazy.
“For 14 years the Westlife fans have made or dreams come true, this show is dedicated to each and every one of you. Our fans mean so much. You have never stopped supporting us.”While lead vocalists Shane and Mark are both planning solo careers, Kian and Nicky are looking at careers in TV.
Shane, who is moving to London to strike out on his own, told the audience: “We will always be a member of Westlife but we won’t be a band anymore.”
Mark added: “I don’t even know what I will do when this is all over.”
Manager Louis Walsh was on hand to enjoy the show from the wings, as was Nicky’s dad-in-law Bertie Ahern.
The former Taoiseach told the Irish Sun: “It’s a great occasion and I’m happy to be here to support Nicky and the lads.”The band also threw in a hip medley of I Gotta Feelin’ by the Black Eyed Peas, Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO, Sex On Fire by Kings Of Leon and Pussy Cat Dolls’ Don’t Ya — accompanied by a fireworks display. And they tugged at the heart-strings by bringing their parents and children out on to the stage while they sang Queen Of My Heart.
Shane said: “To my wife Gillian and kids, love you with all my heart. This is just unbelievable, to think we came from playing to 30 or 40 people to this, it's just incredible, thanks so much.”
And Mark said: “I’m trying to think of words to describe this, just thanks so much, you’re not just our fans, you are our friends and have been with us each step of the way.”
Kian added: “It’s time to say goodbye. At 14 and 15 in Sligo we never thought we would be here. This is just a dream. To Jodi and Koa, I love you very much, to each and everyone one of you, from the bottom of our hearts thanks so much.”
Nicky exclaimed: “Croke Park, this is unreal. To all of you, you didn’t just make the dreams of four lads come true — much more — only for all of you none of this is possible.
“To Georgina and our boys and my mum and dad, who isn’t with us anymore, and all of you, thanks so much — love you all.”
The group decided to call a halt while still at the height of their success, after being guided to the top by the music business wisdom of Walsh and Simon Cowell.
Nor were Westlife and their devotees the only ones affected by the atmosphere.
The Wanted, who had supported the Irish lads, tweeted afterwards: “Croke Park, that was amazing! Thanks so much to the Westlife boys for having us.”
Speaking before the gig, Louis Walsh said: “I have never known a band like this in all my time in the business. I didn’t want them to break up yet — but they all wanted to go out on a high. And I’ll definitely be managing Shane in his solo career.”
Revellers began arriving at the stadium shortly before 5pm and some were already struggling to keep their emotions in check.
Superfan Christina Moran, 25, flew in from London to catch the lads’ last ever performance. She said: “My friends and I spent the afternoon making banners. So cool! I can’t wait for the show but I hope it stops raining.” Lifelong Westlife fans Teresa Quinlan, 25, from Waterford, and Rebecca Murphy, 22, spoke of their “upset” about the group’s decision to quit.
Teresa said: “No one wants Westlife to split up. They have been part of our lives.”
And Josie Dwyer, from Wexford, sighed: “It’s a shock that they are splitting up.”
The final concert was followed by a backstage bash attended by guests such as Pippa O’Connor and then it was on to a farewell party for the band, their families and friends in a top secret venue.