‘No Other Act Will Do It Again’: A Look At Westlife’s 65 Shows At The SSE Arena, Belfast

Feeling right at home
Simon Graham
– Feeling right at home
Westlife has played the SSE Arena, Belfast 65 times in total

It was a fateful day in October 2011, when Westlife announced that they would be splitting up after an impressive 14-year career, which established the band’s status as one of the most successful acts to ever come out of Ireland, and one the most successful boy groups in the world.
By that point, the band had amassed 26 top ten singles including 14 number ones in the UK, 11 top 5 albums, 7 of which hit the top spot and collectively sold over 44 million copies worldwide, not to mention 10 sell out tours.
The announcement was accompanied by the band’s second Greatest Hits album and a farewell tour in 2012 that ended with two nights at Dublin’s iconic Croke Park, June 22-23. Both nights sold out completely, with 144,171 tickets sold and $11,908,693 grossed in total, according to Pollstar‘s box office reports.
“The last time we played there was probably one of the most bittersweet nights ever, but was still probably the best night of our lives,” the band’s Markus Feehily said at a press conference announcing the band’s comeback last October. 
A new tour through, dubbed the “Twenty Tour,” just finished its run through the U.K., Ireland and Europe, ending with two nights at – where else – Croke Park July 5-6. The band’s new album, Spectrum, is scheduled to drop Nov. 8.
Simon Graham
– Westlife
One of the most successful UK acts of all times

Peter Aiken, founder Aiken Promotions, has been working with Westlife from the very start. He met them for the first time when asked to find a support act for the Backstreet Boys in 1998, and has been promoting the band in Ireland ever since. 
“If somebody had asked me, ‘did I see it [coming]’? No,” he said about the band’s impressive rise. “I didn’t think, when I met them the first time, that we’d end up selling 65 nights [at the SSE Arena] Belfast. It’s crazy, no other act will do it again.”
Aiken told Pollstar that the working relationship between him and Westlife developed into a friendship over the years. “I think they’re the same young fellows I knew at the very start, I don’t think they’ve changed a bit. They still [make] time for everyone. But they’re Irish, that’s what they’re like, down to earth.”
Even with Westlife’s history, Aiken wasn’t sure how the first of five nights at the SSE Arena, Belfast, where the “Twenty Tour” kicked off May 22-27, would go. “With a comeback like this, everybody says they knew it was going to work. But you don’t know until the first night. It was electric. Everybody’s back, and they’re very professional, seasoned performers. They definitely learned their trade very quickly,” said Aiken.
The five-night residency at the SSE Arena, Belfast sold 48,653 tickets and grossing $2,476,393, according to Pollstar‘s box office reports. “It was the hottest ticket in town,” said Claire Cosgrave, the venue’s deputy general manager.
Westlife receiving an unheard-of
Courtesy of the SSE Arena, Belfast
– Westlife receiving an unheard-of “65 Shows” plaque
From left: Claire Cosgrove, DGM of the SSE Arena, Belfast, Mark Feehily, Shane Filan, Kian Egan, Nicky Byrne and box office manager Cathy Aiken

“As we were the first night of the tour there was a real nervous excitement about the place. From a venue point of view we had the easy side and was just all our normal checks and preparations but there was a definite buzz in the air that it would be a special night,” Cosgrave described the atmosphere on show night.
She recalls that “Westlife have always put on amazing shows at the Arena, which is one of the main reasons they have such a devout following. They continually made reference to past experiences at the Arena and the fans that have followed them throughout, many of whom were front row each night.
“You could tell they were genuinely excited to be back on stage and this was reflected in a really energized performance.”
No individual band or artist has come close to playing 65 dates at the SSE Arena, Belfast. The only event genres that compare are multi-date family shows, like Disney formats, or ice hockey team Belfast Giants, who call the arena their home ground.
The SSE Arena, Belfast underwent some big changes in 2018, including an extension and revamp of its backstage areas. “The focus for the upcoming year is on improving F&B and hospitality areas to ensure we meet the expectations of customer,” said Cosgrave.
Expectations that have changed dramatically over the past years, also when it comes to the production of shows.  Said Cosgrave: “Production [on the ‘Twenty Tour’] was on a different scale from previous shows. You could tell that a lot of time, effort and expense had been put into ensuring the show had a different look and feel. Event production has moved on a lot since the band were last touring and this was really reflected in what was delivered on the night.”