Up and coming Mancunian JP Cooper warms up the packed out floor and quickly filling seating area with a set lasting around half an hour, armed simply with a guitar. “I’ve played a few empty rooms here in Blackpool so it’s awesome to see so many of you have come out early” he says, prior to performing ”She’s On My Mind”, which is currently receiving huge airplay and support from radio stations across the country so needless to say, the song goes down a treat. He rounds off his time on stage with a short heartfelt speech about “Passport Home” claiming it to be: “…a celebration of anyone who’s done something good or who has been there for you. Thank you to all of you for coming out and to The Script for this amazing opportunity.” By the time he walks off stage to warm applause, he’s certainly earned himself a considerable number of new fans.
After more than two years away, Irish trio The Script are currently preparing to release their fifth album Freedom Child on Friday and have been touring the UK and Ireland in support of it for the past couple of weeks. Tonight, on the second to last night of this intimate run of dates, and four years to the day the band were due to perform in town as part of the Illuminations switch-on event, they walk on stage to a heroes’ welcome, kicking their set off with “Rock The World”, one of the songs from the new album. It gets the show off to an up-tempo start with those on the floor, particularly at the barrier (which one girl I spoke to said she’d queued from 5am to get a spot at) and in the first few rows clapping, jumping and, having followed the previous few shows and quickly learned the lyrics, singing along.
“Superheroes” keeps the mood of the night upbeat, as does “Paint The Town Green” which sees front-man Danny O’Donoghue practically jig his way from one side of the stage to the other before the song slides straight into part of “Good Ol’ Days.”
Fan-favourite “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” is next up and as the crowd all but take over vocal duties to close out the song, Glen turns to his left slightly and proudly applauds while Danny bows down to them, grateful and somewhat overwhelmed by the strength and passion of the masses before him. Having been made aware of some venues not allowing gig-goers to photograph or film parts of shows, Mark, calling out a member of their tour crew, then proceeds to make the following statement: “Tell security to let people film and take photographs if they fucking want to. Venues might have a policy against it but we don’t give a fuck.”
With Freedom Child just two days away from release, the trio then introduce what Danny has called the only “ballad” on the album, “Arms Open”, which, under atmospheric lighting, sees a hand-clap slowly spread around the venue. Addressing the fact they were due in the town 4 years ago but had to cancel their appearance due to a family health emergency, they then call out: “Turn the fucking lights on!” and as every corner of the venue becomes illuminated, while the band stand watching and listening to the crowd roar to life once again, all they can remark is: “Amazing.”
Carrying on what has become a long-standing tour tradition, Danny then says they’re going to create a Mexican Wave and share it using Boomerang, explaining for the older members in the audience – “like me” he jokes – that Boomerang is a social media tool that takes a little clip and puts it on repeat. “It’s gonna look fucking awesome” he insists, and after a practice run, sure enough, the sight of thousands of arms rising and falling together is quite a sight to behold.
Getting back to the music, “Nothing” and “If You Ever Come Back” are next up before, after a brief interlude during which Danny announces: “This tour keeps getting better and better…you guys are amazing, thank you so much”, they introduce another new song; the rather reggae sounding “No Man Is An Island” at the end of which Glen looks out at everyone and declares: “You guys are an amazing crowd”, then all but (politely) demands: “Give yourselves a round of applause” which everyone duly does.
As three criss-cross white lights shine down on the band, “Never Seen Anything Quite Like You” begins with Danny standing centre-stage with his keyboard, while “For The First Time” ends with huge, seemingly never-ending cheers and rapturous applause as Danny stands almost perfectly still for a moment and looks speechless, gazing out at the sight and sound around him. “Science And Faith” and “If You Could See Me Now” follow soon after, before Danny then proceeds to delight those on the balcony towards the back of the venue when he appears on the walkway in front of them to perform “The Energy Never Dies”, with one fan getting an extra added surprise when he sings straight into her phone. Returning to the stage, he then instigates a venue wide sing-along of “Breakeven.”
From the second the band move to walk off stage, the venue echoes with the sound of thousands of people whistling, cheering and stamping their feet non-stop until the trio return for an encore which begins with “No Good In Goodbye.” Half way through, Danny says “Let’s hear you sing this” and holds out the mic to the crowd who duly oblige, albeit a little quietly at first, but they soon find their full voices again.
Latest single “Rain” has the mass of people on the floor, and Danny in particular, jumping around with the energy of someone half his age, before, as the show draws to a close, talking about the meaning behind the new album, he makes the following emphatic and passionate speech:
“We feel that freedom of expression has been under attack recently. We’re talking about the freedom to do what you wanna do, the freedom to say what it is you wanna say. The freedom to feel what is you really feel, the freedom to think what you wanna think, the freedom to pray to whoever you wanna pray to…but more importantly, the freedom to love who you wanna love…”
He goes on to ask: “Blackpool, are you in the mood for making a moment right now?!,” to which he receives a roar in response that makes him beam. “Let’s do this!” Seconds later he announces that they are live across the world right now and encourages everyone to repeat after him: “Freedom Child!”, before the band launch into final song of the night, “Hall Of Fame” which ends with Danny jumping off the edge of Glen’s drum platform. Then, gathering for their usual group bow at the front of the stage, the trio, alongside bassist Ben Sergeant and keyboardist Rodney Alejandro, take a moment to soak up the cheers and applause which thunder around the ballroom, sounds which continue to reverberate long after the group disappear from view.