“Bridlington, where you at?” hollers Danny O’Donoghue, over a chugging Eighties-inflected wall of sound, clad in a tight vest like Irish music’s answer to John McClane, ricocheting around the neon-hued stage with the boundless energy and conviction of a Duracell bunny. “It’s official – The Script are f****** back!”
Indeed they are; almost three years after their last record, the Dublin trio – consisting of O’Donoghue, guitarist Mark Sheehan and drummer Glen Power – are in the midst of intimate pre-release jaunt across smaller venues before the release of fifth album Freedom Child.
On a sweaty Bank Holiday evening at The Spa, the end product is more polished than ever before; a shiny crowd-pleaser of a show with festival headline slots trained in its sights.
The Script’s slickly-honed MOR songcraft – self-described Celtic soul by way of buffed-up LA production – is the kind that runs the risk of being portentous in the hands of lesser showman, a litany of sentimental, heart-on-sleeve ballads.
But O’Donoghue – in fine voice after vocal surgery and two months of enforced silence – channels a livewire intensity into his performance that keeps him just the right side of schmaltzy disingenuousness, leaping into the crowd and reappearing on the venue balcony to serenade punters at various points.
His sincerity is what makes the piano-pinned pop of For The First Time tick; what sells the stadium-sized soft rock of The Man Who Can’t Be Moved; what drives the fist-pumping anthemics of Superheroes to euphoric heights.
When he fronts up a winsomely affecting version of Never Seen Anything “Quite Like You”, stripped back to acoustics, he conjures the spectre of a thousand first dances to the fore, all bashful and shy, and disarmingly pretty.
Not everything works as well. If You Could See Me Now, with its faux-rap delivery, is a jarring oddity, and Nothing sees its U2-indebted twinkling guitar ironed out in favour of a more radio-friendly sheen.
Elsewhere though, handclaps remain the order of a glossed-up night. Subtlety is typically not The Script’s strong suit; Breakeven, alt-rock heartbreak writ large, is a massive, soaring singalong, as is the strident cod-Gaelic lilt of Paint the Town Green.
“If this is your first time tonight, welcome to The Script Family,” O’Donoghue states as the band conclude with swelling mega-hit Hall of Fame, vanishing into the crowd once more. One suspects that those bill-topping gigs will be coming sooner rather than later.