McBusted at 3Arena, Dublin – Review
Emerging in the early noughties, teenage pop rock trio Busted made the unorthodox move of melding the glossy pop sheen of The Backstreet Boys with the power punk energy of Blink 182, a concept which, although dubious on paper, yielded some surprisingly charming results with such pop gems as ‘What I Go to School For’ and ‘Year 3000’ storming the charts. Their million selling, arena filling success helped spawn McFly, an even further polished version of Busted. When original Busted member Charlie Simpson jumped ship to pursue more serious musical endeavours the band folded, passing the punk pop torch to McFly in the process.
Multimillion album sales and countless arena tours later, McFly’s star slowly began to wane towards the end of the decade, with diminishing album sales and the downsizing of concert venues. Having cannily kept their pop culture stock afloat in their downtime by appearing on a variety of mind numbing reality television shows such ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ and ‘Dancing on Ice’, McFly joined forces with the remaining Busted members to form supergroup McBusted. This pop conglomerate served to rejuvenate the fortunes of all concerned. Last year’s sold out arena tour was an unexpected triumph, but with the safety net of noughties nostalgia long folded away, the chips were down for McBusted’s second major tour.
Promoting a surprisingly strong new album released in December, the Bill and Ted referencing ‘Most Excellent Adventure Tour’ rolled into Dublin for one night only. Based around the theme of 80’s video games and movies, the show spared no expense with a lavish stage setup, and lashings of pyrotechnics throughout. Following a neat video intro, the stage production suddenly sparked into life to reveal the jaw dropping giant spectacle of a retro arcade games machine which introduced each member via some nifty onscreen Street Fighter graphics. Opening with the pop-rock stomp of comeback single ‘Air Guitar’, it’s massive chorus starts the first of many mass singalongs throughout the night. From here the mega hits flowed thick and fast, and with the back catalogue of two huge pop acts to cherry pick from, finding enough crowd pleasers was never going to be a problem.
Even the most ardent of anti-pop music curmudgeons can’t help but tap along to the pop punk energy of Crashed the Wedding, the Beatles-esque chord changes in ‘Obviously’, or the Monkees’ indebted nostalgia of McFly’s breakthrough smash ‘Five Colours in her Hair’. With all the bells and whistles of their lavish stage show, it would be easy for the musicianship of the 6 people on stage to be overshadowed. However, Harry Judd is a powerhouse behind the drum kit at the back of the stage, never missing a beat and driving the energy of the entire show. While James Bourne, the man who penned many of tonight’s best songs, comes to life on stripped back new song ‘Beautiful Girls are the Loneliest’ and the strings assisted ‘3AM’. The vocals and harmonies of all six member are flawless throughout, an impressive feat given the amount of energy they put in, constantly jumping and running amok all over the vast stage. An unexpected highlight of the show comes with new album cut ‘What Happened to Your Band?’ An autobiographical pop punk gem dealing with the despair of being thrown onto the pop industry scrapheap and the barrage of questions one must face from curious strangers in the aftermath. The song skilfully delves into a subject that pop music audiences rarely get to hear about: “I walk through the neighbourhood where I used to live, but the only thing people ask me is what happened to your band? Where’d you go? I ain’t seen you on the TV lately?” You find yourself rooting for the man who found pop stardom in his teens but had it pulled from under his feet, only to be gifted with this most unexpected of second chances.
The show pauses for breath at regular intervals as the band indulge in some fun audience interaction, from playing a “live” video game on the giant video screens using the stage prop joysticks, to cycling bikes over the stage walkways and toying with vocal effects on their microphones. Not all of tonight’s songs hit the target however, with the rather cringey auto tune of ‘Riding on My Bike’ standing out as a low point. From a technical perspective, one must ask whether the band really needs three guitars to crank out the same power chords, and has any band, past or present, ever required two bassists playing the same bass lines for an entire show? The feeling is that the instruments are merely a prop for some members. These are minor flaws however, considering that everyone in attendance is having way too much fun to care.
It’s far too easy to write both Busted and McFly off as manufactured boy bands solely for kids and teenage girls. In an industry as fickle and short sighted as pop music, their staying power and mass appeal is testament to the strength of their material. Writing timeless pop songs such as ‘Obviously’ and ‘All About You certainly helps.’ Tonight’s show proves that in the merging of these two groups, there is plenty for music fans of all ages and tastes to enjoy. Their boundless energy and infectious enthusiasm could win over even the most hardened of musical cynics. The end result? A setlist spanning 15 years crammed with enough hooks to hang your entire wardrobe on and a five star spectacle of a pop show that’s unlikely to be bettered this year.
Review by Gary O’Donnell