Wednesday 17 October 2018

Review: The War of the Worlds

The O2, Dublin

Jeff Wayne's 'The War of the Worlds': poor visuals are a distraction. Photo: VIP IRELAND
Jeff Wayne's 'The War of the Worlds': poor visuals are a distraction. Photo: VIP IRELAND

Aidan Coughlan

THIRTY years on from the release of the seminal concept album, Jeff Wayne has taken 'The War of the Worlds' back on the road.

Little has changed on the musical end, as the Moody Blues' Justin Hayward reprises his role as The Sung Thoughts of the Journalist, and the massive on-stage ensemble reflects the sweeping prog-rock original in great faith.

Even the late Richard Burton makes an appearance in the form of a computer-generated hologram, synched to the acting legend's original narration track.

A nice idea, though the stiff facial movements do little justice to the former Mr Liz Taylor, and the constant, shifty eye movements bear a striking similarity to a certain Fr Dougal Maguire.

In fact, it seems that almost every problem with the show stems from the computer graphics filling the giant screen behind the Black Smoke Band and the ULLAdubULLA string section.

Bearing the appearance of a Nintendo game from the turn of the century, the poor visuals are an unwelcome distraction to the powerful sounds.

Badly composed crowd shots -- consisting of real-life actors set against painfully artificial backdrops -- alternate at random with pastel-drawn still images. Justin Hayward inexplicably fails to appear for his first number, and when he does take to the stage, his performance is horrendously disappointing.

A shaky voice, devoid of volume, simply can't give the underwhelming show the lift it needs.

Meanwhile, a tripod descends from the ceiling, resting directly above Wayne and Hayward.

And try as one might to resist the thought, it's impossible not to conjure up wishful images of the infamous heat ray being unleashed and bringing an early end to the night.

To close the eyes and merely listen, this show is breathtaking in places. But as the audiovisual experience it aspires to be, there are simply a few too many excruciating moments.

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