THIS rock opera was last in Liverpool three years ago when it stormed the vast Empire stage.

It left a lasting impression on those unprepared for the visual and aural onslaught that would follow.

A musical tempest ... a rocking, roller-coaster riot of sound, colourful earthy language, physical gestures and gritty dialogue.

The music is from US punk/new wave band Green Day who created the iconic album of the same name 15 years ago.

The electric stage concept picked up Grammy and Tony awards and now has a solid global fan base.

The lyrics from Green Day's singer-songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong range from angst anthems to acoustic, slower poignant numbers.

Now American Idiot is on the final week of a 10th anniversary UK tour and this time in Liverpool it is playing to audiences of all ages in the more intimate confines of the Playhouse.

The scenario sees three friends who go on to cope with life after the world-changing outcome of 9/11.

This modern day stage equivalent of a road movie features plenty of today's obstacles strewn along the way of the central characters.

Who are confronted with more questions than answers.

Drugs, pregnancy and the ever-present shadow of war sit alongside friendship, security and trust as inter-weaving themes .

You have to catch your breath when one song cascades and crashes into another.

An art graffiti covered, two-tier set allows an excellent on stage band to provide the light and shade of a soundtrack conveyed at break-speed and slowed-down for the acoustic numbers.

A TV monitor featuring news clips and some MTV-styled video promos add to the carefully orchestrated frenzy.

The hit songs remain modern rock classics notably Boulevard of Broken Dreams, 21 Guns and the evergreen Wake Me Up When September Ends.

Yet there are plenty of other songs that hit your emotions during the two-hour (including interval) production directed and choreographer by Racky Plews.

When you have song titles such as My Heart is Like a Bomb, Give Me Novacaine and Before the Lobotomy you get the picture that this is going to be a rocky ride that will impact on your senses.

This is in-your-face, eyes and eardrums entertainment with attitude.

It is at times reminiscent of Bowie's early guitar-laden Ziggy Stardust period meeting The Who's Tommy, flavoured with the sounds similar to The Jam, Clash and Elvis Costello's anger and joy.

Yet Green Day, celebrating 33 years as a major influence, are still inspiring with new work ready for release next week.

American Idiot is now part of their lasting legacy.

Here there's a hard working ensemble cast with stand out performances from Tom Milner (The Voice and Waterloo Road) as Johnny and X-Factor's Luke Friend playing St Jimmy.

Sam Lavery as the curiously-titled 'Whatsername' certainly deserves to have more dialogue to flesh out her striking character.

This is a musical not for the faint-hearted and yet there are moments of real poignancy amid the strobe lighting.

The show ends its Playhouse run this Saturday (July 13).

Four stars

High-energy, explosive musical theatre

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