Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Westlife frontman’s back on the ballads

SHANE Filan is no stranger to success. A key member of Westlife from 1998 to 2012,

SHANE Filan is no stranger to success. A key member of Westlife from 1998 to 2012, he was part of a group that racked up 14 UK number ones and sold an estimated 50 million records worldwide.

You and Me, his debut solo album, followed in 2013 and was notably well received, garnering a host of five-star reviews on Amazon and elsewhere.

Now Shane is about to hit the road again to promote his new album Right Here — with the Reading Hexagon on Thursday (March 3) the first stop on a 16-date tour of the UK and Ireland that also includes a night at the London Palladium on Sunday, March 13.

With only Elvis and the Beatles having enjoyed more UK number ones, Westlife’s success was on a level that the singer admits “fulfilled all our dreams a thousand times over”.

So it’s just as well that singing live is the thing he most loves to do.

“Being on stage is the best part,” he says simply. “Whether it’s playing to 2,000 or 20,000 it’s the same atmosphere of being on that stage, where people are there to see you.

“You’re playing to your fans, who love your music, and that’s a really nice feeling — it’s like having a little party in each city, thanks to the fans.”

Ah, yes, the fans. Although Westlife never quite cracked America, their fan base is worldwide and has been kept alive by social media in the four years since they disbanded.

With that in mind, the Hexagon show is set to be quite the international affair.

“Some of my fans are Westlife fans their whole life,” says Shane. “They just support me amazingly — I’ve got an amazing set of fans.

“You see all the stuff on Twitter and Facebook and stuff. People are counting down 56 days to the show, you know?

“They’re literally buying their dresses, booking their hotels, booking their flights from Germany to come over. It’s amazing to see the amount of planning that goes into just — to come to see me.

“It’s a very humbling kind of thing to go, well, like, that girl is literally coming from Brazil to see me. Or from Argentina or wherever. Just to see that one show in Belfast or whatever it is. It’s brilliant.”

So what can his fans expect from him this time around? At the time of his 2013 solo debut, the word was that as well as taking his Westlife following with him, Shane was looking to win over fans of Michael Bublé . Understandably enough, you might say.

“I think the Bublé market is very similar, probably, to what Westlife’s market was,” says Shane. “I suppose musically it was quite different. You and Me was a bit more country, maybe, but it’s still pop music at the end of the day, you know? Which is what I want to do.

Right Here is definitely a bit more kind of pop. It’s more ballad-heavy, probably, this album. A bit more similar to Westlife even than my first album.

“On my first album I was missing a lot of ballads, missing a lot of kind of love songs — and that’s what I love to sing the most. So I think I’ve moved back, a bit more back to my roots maybe.”

As a performer, Shane appears to enjoy the challenges of both studio and live work. But does he find some of the songs work better on record and some on stage?

“It’s hard to know on this album, to be honest, because I’ve only done the studio part of it and sung the first couple of singles, so I haven’t actually sung the rest of the show live yet — the rest of the album.

“I’m not going to do the whole album, probably, anyway — I’ll probably only do half the album because I want to incorporate this album, and then a bit of the last album, and then obviously the Westlife songs as well — I like to mix in different songs throughout the set.

“One thing I want to have when I do a show, I want it to be a great show, but I also want it to be a very strong setlist — the sort of songs that people really know and really love.

“You’ve got to kind of give them a bit of old and a bit of new, and luckily I’m in that position because of Westlife — the back catalogue that we had, it’s great to get that in.

“But I’m excited about singing some of the songs from this album because I haven’t done it before. I’m excited to see what the fans think. And sometimes I might change the setlist after a few shows if I think I need to add one in or take one out, or whatever, you know?

“I’ll probably experiment with two or three different ones and see which ones go down the best. But Reading obviously is the first show, so they’ll get it all, no holds barred on the first night, and see what happens!”

There are some great venues lined up on the tour, but it’s fair to say the London Palladium promises to be something of a highlight.

“Yeah, I’m really excited about that show because it’s obviously such a famous, iconic venue. I played the Reading Hexagon before on the last tour but I’ve never played the Palladium, so yeah.

“A lot of these venues are new to me and a lot of them it’s the first time I’ve played them. It’s such an atmosphere in a venue like this when you’re playing to a couple of thousand people. You know, it’s amazing, like, you’re just so close to the audience.

“That’s what I couldn’t get over on the last tour — how actually physically close you are to the people. You can literally high five the front row, you know? Which you could never do in an arena or in a stadium with Westlife. So you have that atmosphere.

“And it’s not even intimacy, because it’s still feels like a big venue because you’re still playing to 2,000 people, but it’s — the atmosphere is just intense — especially when you’re singing a big song or when you’re doing something uptempo that people go crazy for. It’s so much fun — it’s just a lot of fun on stage.”

Did Westlife not play smaller venues in the early days?

“No, we were very lucky, obviously, in Westlife. You know, it started off so big so quickly. We had so many number ones and stuff and we didn’t even tour our first album — we waited till our second album.

“So when we did our first tour we did 10 Wembleys as our London dates, you know? It was crazy. I think we’d had eight number one singles when we went on tour for the first time, so that was — that kind of stuff was unheard of. It’s crazy, you know?

“We were very lucky to have that success and to have that time. It was like the boy band mania — kind of like Take That was or One Direction or whatever. There’s always going to be a band that has that, I suppose their time, and has their hysteria.”

Looking back, the late Nineties was a good era for boy bands.

“It was, yeah, it was. But you know what? It proves there’s always going to be space for a good boy band. No matter who, or what time, or what it is. Like, One Direction have had an absolutely phenomenal four or five years.

“All it shows is that there’s always space — for the right band with the right songs and with the right people behind it, people are going to latch on to it. And we were very lucky to be one of those bands.”

• Shane Filan plays the Hexagon on Thursday (March 3). Showtime is 7.30pm. Tickets are £52 (premium) and £34.50 (standard). To book, call 0118 960 6060 or visit www.readingarts.com

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