REVIEW: THE SCRIPT – ‘FREEDOM CHILD’ 193

It’s been almost three years since Irish trio The Script released their last album, the chart-topping No Sound Without Silence. A lot has happened since then – the UK is preparing to leave the EU and America has a President who has divided the world unlike any other in history – but one thing has remained completely unchanged; the bands’ ability to create some phenomenal songs.

Freedom Child, written as a testament to the importance and power of freedom of expression, opens with the rather reggae-sounding “No Man Is An Island” and latest single “Rain” – which has already been streamed more than 10 million times on Spotify – follows minutes later.

“Arms Open”, the only true ballad on the album, is largely acoustic sounding, until about half way through, and allows front-man Danny O’Donoghue’s stunning and emotive vocal to shine while the song itself has quickly become a fan-favourite on the recent tour. “Rock The World” is a banger and sees guitarist Mark share in the songs’ spotlight thanks to a lengthy but lyrically inspiring rap in the middle, while “Mad Love” spreads the word about the strength of – as its title suggests – love, albeit through slightly odd references to great whites and piranhas.

Adding a rockier twist to proceedings, “Deliverance” is assisted by a simple chorus that just begs to be sung en masse. Despite having never been much of a politically-based band, the trio’s track “Divided States Of America” makes quite a statement and is the first stand-out number on the album, calling for people all over the world to put aside their differences and unite to make the world a better place for themselves and for future generations: “If we don’t all stand together, we will fall….they built these walls so high, let’s reach across that great divide.”

“Love Not Lovers” pays close attention to the failed ‘relationships’ so many people have found themselves in, and how we all need to take the time to focus on ourselves and all the good that we deserve if we wish to find true love in our lives. “Wonders” is another stand-out track, notably because of how it refers to living in the here and now, and doing all that you’ve ever dreamed of before it’s too late. If anyone needs or needed a reminder that life is short and precious and that each and every one of us should seize the day, this is it.

The toe-tapping rhythm of “Eden” is sure to make the track a smash at live shows while, focused on the reality that a large portion of society often judges people for the way they look, “Makeup” is a song which addresses how everyone should feel comfortable in their own skin, no matter what others might think. In a world where so many people are trying to fit in; being yourself, being a true individual -scars and all – is and can be a revelation – and all of this is explained through the lyrics of a track which, judging by the reaction has Twitter, has brought scores of fans to tears.

Having been released to all those who pre-ordered the album on iTunes a few days before the official release, “Written In The Stars” tells of the strength in taking all you experience, both the good and bad – of never shying away from those moments – and using them to tell your own unique story. It’s an anthem of epic proportions, sure to inspire and motivate millions around the world.

An instrumental titled “Awakening” leads straight into closing number and title track “Freedom Child”. It’s one of the more lyrically simplistic songs on the album, but its impact hits the hardest; simply put it’s a global message to all those who hear it to stand up for what they do, what they believe in and who they love. In the words of the band themselves: “Don’t let them take your freedom child.”

At a time of such global uncertainty and conflict, it’s a message, shared via this track and the album as a whole, that should be seen and heard by as many people as possible, and represents the journey the band have been on during their time together, their determination to evolve and speak out about things that matter to them, and perhaps most importantly, to give a voice to those who feel like they don’t have one while reminding each and every one of those people that they do, and that their voice, and who they are, matters.

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REVIEW: THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS – AMERICA 37

Five years in the making, Thirty Seconds To Mars’ new album ‘America’, which Jared promoted this week by hitch-hiking his way across his home country as part of an event called #MarsAcrossAmerica, is most certainly a considerable shift away from what members of the Echelon have heard from the trio (though current duo) over the years. But is this said shift good or bad?

Beginning with “Walk On Water” which introduced both old and new fans alike to the bands’ new rather electro-edged sound, ‘America’ starts off well, especially given that the rather radio friendly “Dangerous Night” follows on from it.

“Rescue Me” ups the tempo somewhat, and with its toe-tapping, body swaying rhythm, combined with Jared’s rough edged vocal, it’s just over three and a half minutes of enjoyable considerably upbeat rock, and the simplistic chorus in particular will work well when – or if – its performed on their current Monolith tour.

Prior to the release of the album, the band gave a sneak peak of one of the album’s collaborations, with A$AP Rocky. Having watched said sneak peak, this reviewer personally felt his involvement was random and pointless. Fortunately however, and for reasons unknown, he doesn’t feature on my (likely all UK albums) version and with the song performed for the most part in a breathy, almost dream-like manner, it would most likely have been completely ruined with Rocky’s inclusion.

The “Monolith” instrumental, AKA track 5, doesn’t really serve any purpose, however it does lead into the album’s one collaboration that REALLY does work – that of Jared and Halsey on “Love Is Madness” – one of the darker tracks, but not the darkest, on the album. She compliments Jared perfectly, enhancing the song and its sultry mood/feel to the point where it easily stands out as a highlight of the collection.

“Great Wide Open” is an inspiring track, and one that’s perfect to listen to when you’re out discovering yourself or exploring this world we live in, or most likely, doing both at the same time. It’s the type of song you can see playing behind a montage of a person’s life, as their friends and family pay tribute to or celebrate them in some form or another, and with that in mind, it’s one of the album’s strongest, and most emotive, pieces.

Mixing simple electronic hooks, plenty of synth and a chorus which, it could be argued, is rather understated, “Hail To The Victor” almost flashes back to the ‘Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams’ era of the band, perhaps included to draw that chapter to an undeniable close. The darkest, deepest number on the album comes in the form of “Dawn Will Rise.” With lyrics including “Come and hit me, strike me while I’m down” and “Fortunes fade in time, I must change or die.”, it’s certainly not a track to listen to if you are in a good mood, as its sombre, almost depressing tone, matched by Jared’s almost defeated vocal performance, will soon shatter said mood to pieces.

If there’s any real surprise on the album, it’s Shannon’s Leto’s vocal on “Remedy.” It’s raw and stripped back in comparison to any track that has come before and comes after it. There’s an organic feel to the song, and Shannon’s performance, although different, is so in a phenomenally good way, and he’s no doubt going to find himself requested to play it live.

The chorus of “Oh Oh Oh”, on “Live Like A Dream”, in a nice touch from the band, was recorded at one of their Camp Mars events, and serves as an audible reminder for those who were there of the project they were involved in (though it’s unlikely they knew what it was for at the time) and the fun they had, while for other members of the Echelon, it’s a nice throwback to the ‘This Is War’ era when many of them featured on that album, having participated in ‘summits’ around the world.

“Rider” has so far proved to be quite a strong, albeit new, inclusion to the band’s tour setlist, and with its rising crescendo as the piece nears its end, it’s quite stirring and powerful. Meanwhile, on the deluxe edition of the album, the acoustic, choir-inclusive version of “Walk On Water” might lack the energy of the original, but with the electronics removed, it brings Jared’s genuine vocal ability to the forefront again, and such has been considerably lacking up to this point.

With remixes growing in popularity, it’s not that surprising to find the band have included 2, the first being a R3hab remix of “Walk On Water.” For those who like a more dance-like and continued electro-feel to their songs, it’s not a bad version by any means, but it’s not the best remix ever made either, and the Cheat Codes remix of “Dangerous Night” doesn’t fare that much better.

Despite the new sound and styles with which the band have experimented on this collection, ‘America’ is still at its heart, very much a Thirty Seconds To Mars album, and if the social media reaction is anything to go by, it’s proving a hit with their huge following. Yes there are tracks on the album that don’t quite work as well as they should, like the remixes, but for the majority, lyrically and instrumentally, it’s a considerably solid piece of work that fans hopefully won’t have to wait another five years for in order to hear its follow-up.

REVIEW: FALL OUT BOY PLUS GUESTS – MANCHESTER ARENA 29/03/18 38

Opening for a band as much loved as Fall Out Boy are is never particularly easy, but with considerable flair and a lot of sparkle, opening act MAX, although currently largely unknown to UK music fans, does his best to warm up the fast-filling arena with a set filled with songs that showcase his impressive vocal range and his rather fancy dance moves that could be considered ‘stolen’ from the likes of Michael Jackson. His US smash hit “Lights Down Low” is perhaps the best received song he performs, and as time goes on, the crowd do become more receptive to his calls for them to clap or sing along. Come the end of his set, MAX, with another thank you to everyone who has come out in time to see him, exits the stage to warm, although not considerably loud applause.

Second support Against The Current fare much better and almost bounce their way on stage with an energy that doesn’t let up until the second they leave. There’s an air of Paramore’s Hayley Williams about front-woman Chrissy Costanza and her powerful voice, perhaps showcased best via “Gravity”, easily soars through the air of the vast venue, captivating and entertaining those watching the band on stage. With a new album due out later this year, there are likely to be big things ahead for the trio from Poughkeepsie.

As the lights go down for the third time, a countdown appears on the big screens and as the clock ticks down, the screams and cheers of the now packed arena proceed to get louder and louder, reaching almost ear-piercing volume when Fall Out Boy make their first appearance, and kick things off with “The Phoenix”, complete with on-stage pyro. From there, it’s a case of them blasting out hit after hit, with Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz marching from one side of the stage to the other, working, as they always have, in harmony with one another, and encouraging the crowd to dance and jump.

“Sugar We’re Goin’ Down” results in the venue almost vibrating from the sound of 12,000+ people singing along to the chorus at the top of their voices, while the catwalk that splits the arena floor in two sees plenty of use from all band members aside (obviously) from drummer Andy Hurley, who parade their way down it, instruments or microphone in hand.

Taking a seat at a grand piano, Stump shows off just how good his vocal range is with a performance of “Save Rock and Roll,” during which he covers both his own role in the song as well as that of Elton John. It’s a far cry from the EDM, heavier sound to the song that most fans are used to, but it works, and goes down a treat.

While most performers tend to stick only to playing a main stage, the band then proceed to delight those seated at the back of the arena by appearing on a two-part B stage, which raises the quartet high into the air, putting Patrick and Pete in particular at almost eye level with those ‘up in the gods.’ Renditions of “Dance, Dance” and “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs” work the crowd up into a frenzy, and the cheering which follows lasts until the band leave the B-stage and make their way back to the main one.

With the show quickly drawing to a close, the band maintain the high energy momentum they’re so well known for with “I Don’t Care”, soon followed by fan-favourite “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race”, while “Church” also makes its live debut. The four song encore which follows a few minutes later begins with “Uma Thurman”, but it’s the middle two tracks, “Thriller” and “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark” that see the venue once again come alive, shaking with the force of those both in the seats and on the floor singing and dancing along. Closer “Saturday” meanwhile sees Pete get really up close and personal with the fans as, making his way down the catwalk, and laying his bass guitar aside, he reaches out to them as they sing – practically scream – the final few notes, just as confetti explodes from the ceiling all around them.

With such a vast catalogue of hits and an army of dedicated fans, there was little doubt tonight’s Fall Out Boy show was going to be anything less than great, and judging by the grins on the faces of the thousands in attendance as they made their way to the exits, it certainly was just that.