It begins with a video. Images of space, the Earth and the Dalai Lama. Gandhi is in there, too. Then, just as we begin to wrap our senses around the meaning of life, Danny O'Donoghue and his boys make their entrance. "Up in the bar, all smokin' cigars..." sings O'Donoghue. The song is called Good Ol' Days. And if there's a message in all of this, I'm lost. Oh well. The bigger the band, the more ridiculous their live shows.
Granted, the handsome front man and his giddy band of pop rock cohorts keep their feet firmly close to the ground, but they are allowed to show off every now and then. "What do yas think of the new stage?" asks O'Donoghue. "F***in' deadly, isn't it?" Later on, the bloke will take a torch to their shiny new workplace, and – with the help of some smart visuals – light that bad boy up. Now that's f***in' deadly.
All of this would be a waste of time if the Dublin trio was unable to deliver where it really matters. This is their first night on tour – they're on to something special.
Still vying for as much microphone time as his buddy, Mark Sheehan is his usual reliable self on guitar. O'Donoghue mixes it up as the night progresses. One minute, he's channelling his inner Bono (Breakeven, The Man Who Can't Be Moved), the next, he's practising his best lines as an acoustic heartbreaker (I'm Yours).
Material from the band's latest album, #3 – bar the hip-hop flavoured Hall of Fame – is still sinking in, and O'Donoghue's voice takes a while to warm up. What's more, some of the gimmicks are beginning to wear thin (the 'drunk-dialling' skit from the last tour has had its day, boys). But when they're good, they're pretty darn impressive; a remarkably tight unit with both the songs and the presence to pull off a show of this size. And let's not forget drummer Glen Power (easily the finest musician in this group).
Obviously, we know who the favourite is. The girls chant 'Danny'. Over and over. Occasionally, our leading man steps down into the crowd, bringing that green, white and orange microphone of his in for the kill. By the end of the night, the poor lad's going home with a ripped shirt and a messy hair-do. A small price to pay for a party that's only getting started. HHHHI