The Script only showed an interest in Ireland when their blatant first-album focus on breaking the US failed (at least at first). The Script’s songs have more alcohol references than a Saturday night on the tiles in Russia. Danny O’Donoghue has all the rapping ability of your average Wu Tang impersonator in a Capel Street karaoke bar. The Script, clearly, are an easy act to aim a few choice arrows at, but pop bands always have been. Shortly before the release of #3, however, the Dubliners – in a post Westlife world, and with U2 a fading power – can make a reasonable claim to be the biggest thing – at least in terms of fandom – that Irish music has to offer. With a number one single featuring Will.I.Am already notching high on the Irish charts, The Academy show is a rare chance to see the padded-out three-piece (there are five of them live) in a setting far, far smaller than an arena or warehouse venue.
The start, in truth, is shaky. Those outside of The Script’s bigger fans are unlikely to find much appeal in Danny O’Donogues’ rap-tinged moments, and early effort ‘Together We Cry’ sees a few too many rap-mimicking stage-moves to be taken seriously. The backing band are tight, however, and set up before one of the weightiest lighting set ups The Academy’s seen, there’s a heft to the performance even early on that highlights tracks beyond the normal radio-play draws, and suggests the Script have more originality than the casual (non-infatuated) observer might give them credit for.
As things go on, Danny’s voice seems to strengthen. The band’s new Mexican backing guitarist and some well-placed vocal forays from drummer Glen Power add substantial depth, and ‘Before It All Went Wrong’ sees O’Donoghue step behind his keyboard mic. stand for the first time and drop in a few synth-additions to his holler. The crowd, of course, are enraptured. Tickets for the night are like gold dust, and The Academy is packed to spilling point with the most devoted of fans, mirroring every line an octave higher and throwing fists to the ceiling with every crescendo.
A few songs from #3 litter the set, with Power’s drum featuring the hash-tag title across its skin. ‘Six Degrees Of Separation’, one of the last pre-encore offerings, is perhaps the stand out in terms of pure pop hooks, though single ‘Hall Of Fame’ predictably serves up the biggest newbie sing-along. The tracks are promising, though there’s nothing that stands out as certain to illicit the relentless acclaim and non-stop radio-play that’s backed The Script’s soppy older singles to the hilt.
Those smash hits – the ones we all know a little even if it’s just from spending an hour or two a week in supermarkets and shopping centres – were always going to remain the killer blows, though, and the furore they produce is immense, so much so that it’s difficult to say if the musical delivery in a live setting is particularly exceptional or not. ‘For The First Time’, ‘Breakeven’ and ‘If You Could See Me Now’ make up an encore that feels like a mass love in. Earlier in the evening, Danny even finds himself charging around The Academy’s balcony, wrapping his arms round punters and belting lines out over the dance floor, making sure the entire room is all set to lift off.
Are we sold on The Scripts teen-touted brilliance? Not entirely, but that won’t matter to the fans one jot. What’s not in doubt is that Danny O’Donoghue remains one of the poorest rappers we’ve ever seen attempt to rap outside of his own bedroom. Despite that (and fortunately the rap parts are minimal), there’s something charming about tonight, that same ‘more than just a pop band’ vibe that occasionally emanated from the East 17 camp a few years ago, and gave them an appeal that eventually spread beyond their teenage fan base. The Script might like to think of themselves as a rock band, but that angle’s not about to convince anyone. What they continue to have is an almost exaggerated love of their hometown, a likeable stage presence and some truly exceptionally hook-ridden pop songs. With a live performance that’s sometimes shaky in its musicianship but demands attention, The Script’s euphoria looks all set to continue.