Until this weekend, just two Irish bands had headlined Croke Park. The first were U2, patron saints of chest-thumping anthemia. They were followed by Westlife, a quartet of syrupy crooners with silly hair.
To which tradition do The Script belong? It is clear that they see themselves as operating in the slipstream of Bono and chums. Yet who could deny there's a little bit of Simon Cowell in their DNA too? The giveaway is Danny O'Donoghue's boyband quiff, a brylcreemed affectation that serves for a metaphor for all that is obvious and oily about their music.
In that context, your heart sank a little as the Dubliners staged their 'dramatic' entrance to the stadium. A phalanx of over-sized green flags preceded the musicians, some waved enthusiastically, many left to sag in the airless amphitheatre (near my seat a steward dashed about extolling flag-bearers to waggle their banners with greater enthusiasm – to which they half-heartedly assented).
If that was a taste of what was to follow, it was going to be a long two hours. In fact, The Script pulled out of their nose-dive more or less immediately. Though the group have lots of mediocre songs their best ones are cheesily irresistible. Opener Paint The Town Green, for instance, represented a bonkers attempt to turn a Dropkick Murphys' pub brawl paean into an uplifting pop ballad – a crazy mission it more or less it accomplished.
Thereafter, the night took on the aspect of victory parade, as the trio pirouetted through their cheerfully hokey repertoire. The performance did occasionally verge on absurd – such as when O'Donoghue persuaded an audience member to call an ex-girlfriend so that the frontman could serenade her (or something – the point was lost on me).
On the other hand, it was moving to see guitarist Mark Sheehan dedicate a song to the students who died in Berkeley and the tactic of dousing everything in dreamy Snow Patrol riffs was perfect for the vast spaces of Croke Park. Assuming you have a strong stomach for schmaltz the evening could only be regarded as a triumph.. Apart from the phone-call bit. That was just weird.