Boyband heartthrob Lee Brennan, the voice of chart-toppers 911, had it all - the fame, the girls and the jet set lifestyle. But not the fortune, writes Graham Walker.
Despite selling 10-million singles and having a strng of hits, including number one A Little Bit More, he was in the red when ITV came knocking to take part in their Big Reunion series last year.
In an exclusive chat, ahead of his band’s return to arenas this month on the follow-up Big Reunion Boyband Tour, he reveals the call came just at the right time.
He owed his bank thousands of pounds and had just sold his car to make ends meet. He was also going through a well publicised split with wife and B*Witched’ star Lindsay Armaou.
But if nothing, Lee is a survivor. He beat cancer twice as a child. And last year’s TV show, followed by two live tours proved a turning point. Such a huge nostalgia success, Lee and his band 911 are back with six other boybands, another shot at fame and, this time, fortune.
Blue, Five, A1, Damage, 3T and new superband 5th Story, featuring individual stars Dane Bowers, Gareth Gates, Adam Rickitt, Kavana and Kenzie, form the magnificent seven acts.
They’ve had 72 top 10 hits, including 14 number ones between them and it all kicks off at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena on Friday, October 17.
Lee, aged 41, and his bandmates Jimmy Constable, Spike Dawbarn, who first went their separate ways in early 2000, are back promising their chart hits including fan favourite, Bodyshakin.
“There will be plenty of testosterone on stage and plenty of women in the audience. It’s all a good mix,” he says.
He revealed: “I dreamed about retiring but we didn’t make any money, so there was no chance of that happening.
“I’m glad the ITV Big Reunion came along and saved us when it did..
“I’d just sold my car, so I was glad I got the call off ITV and it was such a huge success.
“My bank was minus five grand probably, so it came at the right time.”
It’s the type of revelation which made the TV series such a smash hit itself, as fans got to hear what happened to their pop idols of the nineties.
Now comes the best bit when they see them all back on stage and roll back the years to relive their teenage years - but with a new generation of fans.
Leeds born Five star Sean Conlon, 33, says opening night will be something of a homecoming - they recorded their classic hit When The Lights Go Out with the city’s Grammy award winning Eliot Kennedy at his Steelworks Studio and went on to have 12 top 10s, including chart-topper Let’s Dance.
“It’s about the songs and that’s what people come to see. And a few dance moves along the way,” he said.
“it is about nostalgia, about looking back on the past and celebrating what was a special time for the band members and fans alike.”
Dane Bowers, 34, songwriter, DJ and producer, was also a part of R&B boyband Another Level. But 5th Story was formed for The Big Reunion and Sheffield will be only their third time on stage together, he says.
“We haven’t got history yet,” he laughed.
“We would like to do more together - it depends if the demand is there. When we first got together, none of us thought it would work. I definitely didn’t want to sing Spirit in the Sky. But it ended up being great.
“At some point I didn’t know if I was ever going to do an arena again.
“The tour bus is going to smell. Seven groups of just guys. That’s not going to be great. But apart from that it’s going to be good fun.”
* Sheffield seats are £28.88 to £47.25. Buy in person, call 0114 256 5656 or visit www.motorpointarenasheffield.co.uk. Also see our entertainments listings and what’s on website, for full tour details, at www.wow247.co.uk.