VIDEO: Westlife plan farewell tour to thank broken-hearted fans after 14 years
THEY lived the dream. From shy teenagers to stadium-playing popstars, they grew up in the limelight in front of millions of fans.
But after 14 years, 14 number-one singles and 44 million album sales, chart-topping act Westlife announced last night they were to split after a final farewell gig in Dublin next year.
"We lived the dream so we're not hanging our heads," member Kian Egan told the Irish Independent last night.
"We're celebrating what we came from and what we achieved. Meeting the Pope, Barack Obama, singing for the queen. We grew up in this wonderful, magical adventure which surpassed our wildest expectations but now the time has come to stop."
In a statement, the group said the decision had been "entirely amicable" and the four members would go their separate ways after the release of a greatest hits collection next month and a farewell tour next summer.
But Egan revealed Westlife's final goodbye was likely to be a stadium show in Dublin next summer.
"Doing Croke Park or Lansdowne would be perfect because we want to go out on a high.
"We wanted to finish it like this, and not be in a situation where we just dwindled away over the years, playing to smaller and smaller crowds," he added.
Although news of the split came around 6pm yesterday, the Sligo man said the parting had been an "ongoing discussion" among Westlife for the past few months.
It is now ticket sales rather than record sales by which the success of a music act is measured, so there was little concern when, last March, Westlife parted from record company Syco, run by Simon Cowell and with whom they had their biggest hits.
Picked up by label RCA, they have continued to be a popular live draw around the world, recently returning from an extensive tour of Asia.
But Egan revealed that each member was now keen to "do his own thing". Shane Filan (32) is working on a solo album, Mark Feehily (31) is penning songs for other pop acts and Dubliner Nicky Byrne (33) is looking at a career in the media.
Expecting his first child with wife Jodi Albert in January, Egan (31) is to be a coach/mentor in new RTE talent series 'The Voice Of Ireland'.
"We all have stuff we want to do and the time has come to do it. We're all looking forward to doing our own thing.
"We all feel very positive and we just want to thank our fans for the support they've given us over the years," added Egan.
Manager Louis Walsh was among those who paid tribute last night, calling Westlife "four of the best ambassadors Ireland has ever had".
"Westlife were always the best four people I have ever worked with. I had a brilliant time working with them," he said.
"And it just goes to show how far you can get in this business with the right attitude.
"I know the fans are going to be upset but they shouldn't be. The end doesn't really mean the end, look at what happened with the Stone Roses this week," Walsh told the Irish Independent.
Westlife's 'Greatest Hits' is to be released in Ireland on November 18, with a new single, 'Lighthouse', issued a week earlier on November 11.
Dates for a final Irish tour including a monster farewell in Dublin are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.