MARK Read acknowledges that no matter whatever else he does in his career, to many people he will always be a member of A1.

Away from the boyband which had a string of hits in the early 2000s, he has starred in the West End, written hits for other artists and next week comes to Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall as the star of a brand new show Piano Legends.

Here he will get the chance to show his skills as both pianist and vocalist as, accompanied by a 13-piece band, he will perform some of the most popular piano driven songs of all time.

The show includes classics from Billy Joel, Elton John, Stevie Wonder among others.

“I’m sure many people will be surprised to find out I’m in this show but they shouldn’t be,” he laughed. “But that’s fine. If you are in a boyband that’s your crime and you’re in a boyband for the rest of your life; even when you’re a grandad – which I’m not by the way.”

Although classed as a boyband, A1 were always that little bit different. Mark’s fellow band member Ben Adams has also starred in a number of hit musicals including a recent tour of Flashdance and has written a number of hit songs.

“Our manager always wanted to put together a band which had a musical pedigree,” said Mark, “and we always wanted to showcase that as much as possible.”

Although starring in the new show, Mark remains modest about his contribution.

“I’m not suggesting I’m a piano legend, far from it,” he said, “but to get the chance to play the songs of so many piano legends that I have grown up is amazing. When I was first contacted about it. I just said ‘sign me up’.

“We all think we know these songs inside out but it’s only when you really get into the music and break it down that you start to realise how much there is to them

“We’ve got some fantastic arrangements for the songs in the show and they are not all exactly the same as the original versions. It’s been a really enjoyable experience dissecting the songs and learning the arrangements. I’ve got so many of my favourites, I’m performing - it’s a real treat.”

Mark will be joined in Piano Legends by West End vocalists Carole Sennett and Miranda Wilford.

“This show is not what you might expect, there are one or two surprises along the way,” said Mark. “For example, Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind is a duet between the two girls.”

Piano Legends round off an exceptionally busy year for Mark.

“It’s basically been one tour after another,” he said. “I’ve been a very lucky lad.

“At the beginning of the year I did a tour of Spoonful of Sherman, based on the songs of the Sherman brothers who wrote most of the songs from the golden age of Disney. That show came along and I jumped at it.”

More recently Mark has joined his A1 bandmates for a tour of the Far East and Asia.

“That was incredible,” he said. “We have such a connection with the fans over there.”

But he had some good news for the band’s UK fans too.

“Next year is our 20th anniversary and we are planning to do some shows in the UK to mark that,” he said.

There ‘s also a possibility that Mark might be taking Piano Legends to theatres around the country.

“We’re just testing the water with four shows including Manchester,” he said. “But I’ve not doubt it will be a big hit with fans. There aren’t many shows where you can go along and hear hit after hit and sing along to every number.”

Piano Legends, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, Thursday, December 27. Details from 0161 907 9000