Venue: Castlegar Sports Ground, Galway 11/07/98
I was never a big fan of Beastie Boys as I steered clear of rap and wasn’t interested in it. But that was me being a music snob as something changed along the way and it was more of the cross-over appeal between rock and rap.
If I had taken the time to listen to their first album, Licenced to Ill, I would have noticed Kerry King from Slayer playing the guitar on (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!) and No Sleep till Brooklyn. So, there was more to rap than I gave credit for.
By this time, the cross-over appeal got me more interesting in listening to them and singles Sabotage (1994) and Intergalactic (1998) had won me over.
A trip to the west coast of Ireland for this gig had me and a few friends on the road. We had a couple of near disasters like the car breaking down but somehow, we made it to Galway.
The festival bill included Junkster (the only Irish band on the bill), Cornershop, Ian Brown, Garbage and headliners Pulp.
Venue: Ulster Hall, Belfast 16/11/12
I was familiar with The Beat from the 1980s, especially listening to the likes of Madness, The Specials and Bad Manners when growing up.
The Beat supported Stiff Little Fingers at the Ulster Hall. What I didn’t know at that time was that there are two bands with the same name. The Beat is fronted by Ranking Roger and The English Beat is fronted by Dave Wakeling.
I got to see the version with Ranking Roger which also included his song, Ranking Junior on vocals.
They played a really great set and although I hadn’t listened to them in a long while, Mirror in the Bathroom seemed to be the song I remembered the most.
Ranking Roger passed away on 26/03/19.
The Beta Band
Venue: Limelight, Belfast 12/06/01
This was another gig that I managed to pick up a free ticket for. Not really wanting to pass an opportunity to see a band I took the ticket ok.
I was only familiar with them after hearing Dry The Rain from the High Fidelity soundtrack and film.
Despite not knowing too many songs it was a good gig and didn’t cost me anything to go!
Venue: Reading Festival 2000
I never thought I would get to see Beck live but at the 2000 Reading Festival, he was second under the bill before headliners Pulp.
Beck’s Midnite Vultures-era set dominated the proceedings with some of the popular cuts from Odelay. Loser, one of his earliest hits was the second song performed. It really showed the strength of Beck’s material that he didn’t have to play the hits to please the crowd.
Bizarrely at the end of his set, he is wrapping the stage up in crime-scene tape leaving Jarvis Cocker and Pulp to follow up after that. What a class act.
Venue: Dalymount Park, Dublin 27/06/93
Sunstroke’93 was the first festival I went to and what a great one to have been at.
Originally Red Hot Chili Peppers were the headliners but had to drop out for other reasons and were replaced by Faith No More.
Belly was on the bill as well and I was a big fan of Tanya Donelly’s new outfit after the release of Star which was one of the finest albums of the 1990s.
Ben Folds Five
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London 14/12/99
I don’t have any albums by Ben Folds Five but my friend David in London liked them and while I was over in London for a weekend we took in three gigs over the space of three days. The first two were at Wembley Arena to see James and then Stereophonics.
Royal Albert Hall is a massive venue. Normally you associate it with the likes of opera and the Proms instead of rock concerts, but it really is an amazing venue.
Our tickets were away up with the gods and if you suffer from vertigo, looking down from the top to the stage is not recommended. We were just so high up!
From what I can remember there seemed to have been more fun in the front row than up at the stands. I must admit I did feel a bit dizzy afterwards. No wonder I don’t do too many sitting gigs.
Venue: Barrowlands, Glasgow 20/03/02
When I went over to Glasgow two days before my birthday it was to see Weezer. Support was meant to be Remy Zero who had a big hit with Save Me which was used for the American TV show Smallville.
For some reason, Remy Zero didn’t show and they were supported by a local band, Biffy Clyro.
My mate Colin from Glasgow says “Biffy Clyro? They’re shite” in his thick Glaswegian accent. I wasn’t going to argue as I hadn’t heard of them at this point.
Colin’s words still resonate in my ears. I have seen Biffy Clyro numerous times since in smaller venues to festivals and arenas. Whether they are shite or not is how you see them. I think they are decent enough live.
Venue: Mandela Hall, Belfast 25/11/91
I was always late to the party and Big Country was no exception. Most of my peers in school were really into them during the early 1980s along with Simple Minds and U2. I knew some of their songs but at the time I wasn’t a big fan until after I left school and started to listen to them.
Peace in our Time (1988) was the first Big Country album I bought. It wasn’t until 1991 when they released No Place Like Home that I got to see them for the first time.
I entered a competition to win tickets for this in my local newspaper and was quite surprised to have won something for a change!
Frank Black and the Catholics
Venue: Vicar Street, Dublin 09/02/01
Thanks to one of my work colleagues back in 1991 I got into Pixies. Bossanova and Doolittle just blew me away. I didn’t even know they played Belfast back then too so I thought this is one band I would never see.
When Frank Black came to Dublin in 2001, I didn’t hesitate to get tickets. This was going to be the closest I would get to hearing any Pixies songs live. Frank played quite a few Pixies numbers to the delight of the crowd but mostly the set was his solo stuff with his backing band The Catholics.
I would get my wish three years later when the Pixies did reform.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Venue: Ambassador, Dublin 26/02/02
NME championed them the year before and when I heard Whatever Happened to my Rock n’Roll (Punk Song) my first reaction was, these guys sound like The Jesus and Mary Chain. And I meant that in a good way. I really liked what I heard.
This was the first year that the NME tour went outside of the UK and made its Dublin debut at the Ambassador theatre which used to be a cinema until 1999. It became a music venue in 2001.
Of all the bands that played on that tour – Andrew WK, The Coral and Lostprophets, it was Black Rebel Motorcycle Club who blew me away that night and I have been a fan since.
Venue: Odyssey Arena, Belfast 12/12/13
It is hard to believe that Black Sabbath have never played Belfast until 2013!
Ironically, they released an album called 13 which they were touring but their set included new material as well as older fan favourites.
This was one of the best gigs I have ever seen in the Odyssey (now SSE Arena) and I was totally transfixed watching Tony Iommi play the guitar. He was just note-perfect and was just amazing to watch.
I thought Ozzy Osbourne by this stage would have lost it but he really did have the audience in the palm of his hand. He was unbelievable.
Ozzy promised at the end not to leave it long. Sadly, this would be their one and only visit to Belfast. I would get to see them one more time when The End reached Dublin in 2017. The Belfast gig remains my favourite.
Venue: Reading Festival 2000
Quite possibly the most juvenile band I have ever had the pleasure of seeing live. Enema of the State was a great album and was very successful. I was hoping that live they would be great.
Sadly, my memories of them at the Reading Festival are more of them telling jokes than playing songs and looking out for girls in the crowd flashing their breasts at them.
They were so poor live, Rage Against The Machine followed up after them. By then I had forgotten Blink-182 had been on stage.
Venue: Reading Festival 2000
The Bluetones were fourth on the main stage at Reading in 2000. They came on after the disappointing Limp Bizkit. The less said about them the better.
I was vaguely familiar with some of The Bluetones material and from what I heard that day I really liked it.
Venue: Waterfront, Belfast 06/12/99
One thing I will admit here is that I was wrong about Blur. Not often do I get it wrong musically. I was more of an Oasis fan at the height of the Blur vs Oasis chart war during the 1990s.
However, something changed for me, and it was their 1997 self-titled album that swung it. It was nothing like its Britpop predecessors The Great Escape and Parklife – albums that I just couldn’t get into at the time.
After watching their set on tv at the Glastonbury Festival that year I thought they are brilliant. Songs like Popscene and Song 2 stood out for me, and I started to pay more attention to them. By now, interest in Oasis had waned. The third album killed it for me and now I was in the Blur camp.
This was a gig for the newly converted like me. Many that attended the greatest hits set at the Waterfront probably saw the band at their peak during the early 1990s, but I was glad I got to see them live. This would be the only time I ever saw them.
Venue: Vicar Street, Dublin 22/09/15
One of the very influential veterans of the 2000s emo scene, I took a particular liking to their brand of rock after listening to albums like Your Favourite Weapon and Deja Entendu.
Prior to this gig, having never seen the band live before they didn’t have a new album out either but still managed to sell out the iconic Vicar Street venue.
Venue: King’s Hall, Belfast 27/06/92
Late getting into Pixies who by this stage had split and Kim Deal was focusing more on her own band, The Breeders. Two albums in, they had released Last Splash by the time they were supporting Nirvana and what a time to see them.
They were first on the bill opening at the King’s Hall, with Teenage Fanclub to follow.
Venue: 02 Institute, Birmingham 06/12/18
Perhaps one of the most underrated bands from the 1990s and a band that I have always wanted to see live but never got to until 2018.
They had been to Belfast once before back in 1991 when they supported The Wedding Present. I wasn’t a fan of The Wedding Present but what a gig that would have been to go to.
By 1993, I had heard of Buffalo Tom following the release of Big Red Letter Day but still seeing the band live eluded me.
Following their eighth album, Skins (2011) I hadn’t heard too much more about them until they did a crowdfunding album, Quiet and Peace which was released in 2018.
A few UK dates were announced. Sadly, no Irish dates were announced but I took a chance to go over to Birmingham to see them at the O2 Institute which is a very intimate venue which used to be a former church.
They played a career-spanning setlist which includes favourites of mine from Big Red Letter Day which I never thought I would hear live.
Venue: Ulster Hall, Belfast 12/10/97
Not a very popular one to admit to being at but I will confess I did like these guys!
Very much a Brit-centric take on grunge. You can tell that Gavin Rossdale is challenging his inner Kurt Cobain. This was probably why the British music press hated the band because they got big in America before being successful in their own country.
Despite the detractors, they were pretty good live. Most of the set featured from the first two albums, 16 Stone and Razorblade Suitcase. The Surprise of the night was the cover of REM’s The One I Love.
This was their one and only visit to Belfast.
Venue: Limelight, Belfast 04/11/16
Legendary Manchester punk band Buzzocks brought their 40th-anniversary celebrations to Limelight 1 in 2016. I was familiar with some of their songs although not many. Songs like Harmony in My Head, Orgasm Addict and Ever Fallen in Love were the ones I could remember.
I was too young to be into them in 1976. In fact, most of the punk at this stage I wouldn’t have listened to until I got much older and started to appreciate the likes to them, along with The Clash and Sex Pistols.
I would get to see the band one more time when they were supporting Stiff Little Fingers. Pete Shelley passed away on 6 December 2018, the same night that I was over in Birmingham to see Buffalo Tom.