War of the Worlds (Tour – Manchester)

”War of the Worlds” still has all of the spectacle and awe required to please fans of the original

War of the Worlds
War of the Worlds
© BBC News

Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds is a staple part of many rock fan's record collection, and has been adapted for radio and several films and, therefore, whatever your age, it is familiar.

This rock concert with images starts in a static way. Liam Neeson is the narrator – the Journalist who guides us the through the invasion, the chaos that ensues and the fight for survival. His voice is commanding and the sound is superb, as it really feels like his is in the arena. The reality is that he is probably making another Taken film, as here we have to make do with a hologram.

Bryan McFadden plays his singing 'version' and has a raspy vocal tone which is quite mesmerising. When you first see his name, alongside Jason Donovan, Shayne Ward and another X Factor singer, Joseph Whelan, it might seem like a line up for I'm a Celebrity… Get me out of Here. But Ward is excellent as the Artillery man, using the whole of the arena, running down the aisles, acting with passion and conviction and again, vocally he is on the money.

Whelan overacts slightly but has the chops to deliver the songs. Jason Donovan is the complete surprise, as he is suitably over the top and it fits in with the fear and damnation that his Parson would feel as the invasion gathers pace.

Musical theatre trained Carrie Hope Fletcher has great chemistry with Donovan and her vocal range carries her voice right across the arena. She is perfect in the role of Beth and gives the piece the gravitas it needs.

An imposing pod is lowered from above shooting laser beams at the audience, the video footage is crisp and clear, leaves fall from the sky and the sound design is as good as I have heard in any arena. This means that you are left with the feeling that this tour matters to the producers. The audience are treated with respect and given a show which lives up to the title.

Anyone familiar with the Jeff Wayne album will know that some of the tracks do plod. Liam Neeson talks about "Red Weed" for so long that I swear I saw some growing beneath my feet, and at times the effect is quite pompous.

But, War of the Worlds delivers on spectacle, performances and for the music. The orchestra led by the wonderful Wayne himself, deliver the famous pieces with ease. 'Hair on the back of the moments' occur and you have a sneaking feeling that this might not be the last time you see this crowd pleasing concert.