Westlife have thanked fans in Belfast for an “amazing” reaction on one of their first public appearances since announcing plans to go on tour next year.
The date with the media at the SSE Arena in the city may not have been widely advertised, but around 100 fans turned up for a chance to see what was once one of the world’s best-loved boybands.
The fans sang Westlife hits including Flying Without Wings as they waited to get a glimpse of Shane Filan, Nicky Byrne, Kian Egan and Mark Feehily who announced plans earlier this month to reform.
There were screams and a lunge forward as the members emerged from the venue to pose for promotional photographs, with security and police helping to hold back fans.
Lead singer Filan described the reaction as amazing, and said their Belfast fans have always been “spectacular”.
“It was amazing, Belfast is always a little bit more spectacular, there is just something about it,” he said.
“It’s probably the main reason we are starting our tour in Belfast because we have a lot of very happy memories - 60 nights of happy memories - here which is pretty ridiculous.
“It’s going to be louder than a 20,000-seater arena anywhere else.”
Feehily said: “That’s the first time I have been in front of an actual group of fans since we have been back, that feeling of a crowd screaming at you, I forgot what it felt like, it was a really powerful feeling, and hopefully there is going to be a lot more of that ahead.”
Byrne added: “Who would have thought we would have that sort of reaction as 40-years-old?”
The Twenty Tour will be the first time the band has performed together in seven years.
It is due to start at the SSE Arena in Belfast next May, with a third night just announced.
There will be new music, including a song written by Ed Sheeran, alongside their greatest hits.
“We are very excited about the new music. We have only recorded a few songs, but we always said if we come back we want to be better,” said Filan.
“We want to make music which is going to fit in with the charts now so Westlife can be current.
“It’s great that Ed is involved, we are very happy to have his songs because they are amazing songs, but we just have to wait and see what the fans think.”
The band notched up 14 number one singles in the UK before announcing they were splitting up in 2012.
Byrne said the band was just as devastated as their fans back then.
“We were equally as heartbroken as all those people who came to see us because a Westlife show was always a lot of fun, and when we came to Belfast that fun and that hype just accelerated up a few notches,” he said.
The band said they had talked about reuniting for several months, and the decision was made partly to mark the 20th anniversary of their first single Swear It Again.
Egan added: “We kind of felt like we needed to mark that (anniversary), and that if we actually wanted to get back together as a band, this was the right time for us.”
Filan added: “We are getting the best people in the world to do this tour because it is what Westlife deserves.”
Tickets for the Belfast dates, from May 25 to May 27, 2019 go on sale on Thursday at 9am via Ticketmaster.