Paul’s Gigography goes to Fleet Street!

I have recently got an email from the Independent (UK) newspaper if I would like to contribute to a feature that they were doing on the history of music concerts at Slane Castle.

Having previously posted on WordPress about the history of Slane and the concerts I had been to, I was asked to submit some reviews for this publication which was tied in with a promotion for Slane Irish Whiskey.

Instead of just submitting the previous blog, I decided to flesh this one out a bit and invite friends who had been to Slane over the years. In the article below which has just got published, I wrote about REM and got reviews from friends for The Vervue, U2, Foo Fighters, Guns N’Roses and Metallica. Getting another fan’s perspective of the gig instead of my own and I am really pleased with the reviews below that got submitted. It was quite a challenge putting it together with a word limit to reach.

Other reviewers focused on the big acts that headlined during the 1980s. I was way too young to have been at any of them but they are fascinating reviews.

Having previously shared this on both Facebook and Twitter, I thought that those following me on WordPress would like to have a read.

Hope you enjoy it!

Bowie, Queen, Madonna and more – a look at Slane Castle’s iconic acts through the decades

For over 40 years, Slane Castle has staged the biggest names in music from every genre – here we look back at just some of the incredible performances

Friday 24 February 2023 16:45

<img src="; alt="<p>Since 1981 Slane Castle has played host to incredible acts playing the sets of their lives

Since 1981 Slane Castle has played host to incredible acts playing the sets of their lives(Getty, Enda Casey, Paul Clarke)

Since the first ever concert in 1981, featuring Thin Lizzy and U2 on an unbeatable bill, Slane Castle has played host to the most iconic acts in music, from rock royalty like Queen, Bowie and the Rolling Stones, to metal legends Metallica and Guns ’N’ Roses, grunge gods the Foo Fighters, indie luminaries The Verve, Oasis and REM, and pop greats from Madonna to Robbie Williams. Here we look back over its incredible 42-year history via the memories of concert goers who were lucky enough to watch the musical magic unfold first-hand…

The Rolling Stones, 1982

This was my first time at Slane, and the whole event blew me away: the scale, the glamour, helicopters flying in and out, celebrities watching from the castle. It was the biggest outdoor crowd I’d been part of and felt like history in the making.

The Stones came on stage at 6pm. There were no video screens, as they only had access to one and needed it for their gig in Leeds the next day. There was only one bar, so the queue was vast all day long, and there weren’t any merch stalls either, though on the way into Slane village I spotted some enterprising types selling ‘Jagger Juice’ in plastic cartons for 2 punts. God only knows what was in it!

My memories are of a warm summer’s day, in a majestic setting, the Stones playing all of their best tunes, from Under My Thumb to Angie and Satisfaction. Jagger being lifted above the crowd in a cherry picker and chatting to the driver between songs. A boisterous yet well-behaved crowd of 80,000 people, of all ages, thoroughly enjoying seeing real rock legends. And a feeling that the big time had come to Ireland at last.

Bruce Springsteen, 1985

Making his Irish gig debut in style, the Boss was at the top of his game, having just released his album Born in the USA. Indeed, this was his opening song, inducing fever-pitch excitement, while all the favourites from Born to Run to Glory Days and Dancing in the Dark got an airing. Memorably, he performed The River with a video of the Boyne River flowing on the big screens.

It was a gloriously sunny day, and the three hours went by in a flash. Although he’s famous for them, the Boss didn’t play an encore, but the set was incredible, and I like to think this was the moment he developed his lasting love for playing in Ireland.

Queen, 1986

<img src="; alt="<p>Belting out their biggest hits in the pouring rain, Queen delivered an incredible set

Belting out their biggest hits in the pouring rain, Queen delivered an incredible set(Getty Images)

For this concert, a year after Queen’s iconic performance at Live Aid, Freddie took to the stage wearing a crown, belting out One Vision in the pouring rain. All the hits followed, from Under Pressure to Bohemian Rhapsody and We Will Rock You, and despite the inclement conditions, they put on a powerful show.

My abiding memory is of Brian May’s haunting rendition of Danny Boy, playing solo after his bandmates had exited for a break. So fixated were the 80,000 strong crowd that you could have heard a pin drop. A moment to treasure from a guitar legend.

David Bowie, 1987

Part of his Glass Slipper tour, this gig didn’t start so well. Bowie descended slowly from the roof of the stage, on a seat with a telephone in his hand, and it’s fair to say that early on, the show concentrated more on theatrics (the cartwheeling clowns will be forever imprinted in my mind) and featuring obscure songs from his most recent album, Never Let Me Down, bar a few hitslike Absolute Beginners and Fashion).

His old school friend and fellow rock legend, Peter Frampton was playing with the band, and thankfully halfway through the show, with the crowd visibly losing interest, he picked up on the mood. They ripped up the script, dismissed the theatrical cast and reverted to playing all the classics from Heroes to Jean Genie and Let’s Dance, which worked very well and managed to turn the gig around.

REM, 1995

REM took to the stage on a perfect summer’s day and the atmosphere amongst the crowd was electric. They were playing as part of their Monster tour, and there was a feeling we were about to witness something special.

We had managed to make our way near the front of the stage and looking back up the hill there was this massive sea of people which looked incredible.

The support bill included Belly, Spearhead and Oasis, who played an amazing set including Roll With ItSome Might Say and Live Forever. They were so good, you wondered whether they might upstage the headliners.

<img src="; alt="<p>At one point it looked like Oasis might upstage the headliners REM during their 1995 gig

At one point it looked like Oasis might upstage the headliners REM during their 1995 gig(Getty Images)

However, REM were immense, ripping through 23 songs in a barnstorming set. Many were from Monster, including What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? and Crush With Eyeliner,but they also played classics like Losing My Religion and Everybody Hurts. Ending with a raucous It’s The End of the World As We Know It.

The Verve, 1998

The Verve gig was as bittersweet as their famous song – at the exact point they were hitting their peak, they were falling apart behind the scenes. Urban Hymns was outselling Be Here Now by Oasis, so this should have been a celebration, but it felt more like a wake. But of course, nobody does a wake better than the Irish.

The day had begun with support acts ranging from James and The Seahorses to Robbie Williams. Surprisingly, given Slane’s rock history, Robbie Williams was the most popular act of the day. He would go on to headline the following year.

Manic Street Preachers were up next, though it was a tough gig for them as the crowd were still cheering for Robbie Williams. They played songs from This is My Truth, like You Stole the Sun from My Heart and If You Tolerate This, and closed with a crowd-pleasing A Design for Life.

The Verve’s set mostly focused on Urban Hymns with hits like Lucky Man and Bitter Sweet Symphony, which closed the set. Shortly after this they announced their split, so it was good, if a little sad, to have caught them one last time.

U2, 2001

U2 made history by becoming the first band to headline Slane twice in one year – playing to 80,000 fans over two weekends. So it was always going to be an iconic, even spiritual, experience.

The two gigs stood out for two reasons – a lament and a celebration. There was sadness as Bono read out the names of the Omagh bomb victims as Sunday Bloody Sunday came to a close. Sadness, too, for Bono, as he had only just buried his father, Bob Hewson. Kite and One were both dedicated to him.

But there were also moments of celebration. All I Want Is You was dedicated to his beautiful wife, Ali. The jubilant mood continued as the crowds witnessed Ireland qualifying for the World Cup finals courtesy of the big screen. Strangers hugged and danced, threw drinks in the air and made pyramids.

The gig brought everyone together, both in sadness and in joy. It was a very powerful experience.

Madonna, 2004

This was another rainy Slane, and I remember members of the stage crew sweeping the water off the stage before Madonna made her entrance from the roof – literally “bending over backwards to please her fans” as a headline ran the next day.

The rain was so bad, Madonna allegedly feared electrocution, yet, true professional that she is, she powered through all the big hits, from Like A Prayer to Material Girl with a troupe of dancers. Vogue was a highlight, while her lively, occasionally racy, chat between songs pleased die-hard fans and neutrals alike.

Foo Fighters, 2015

<img src="; alt="<p>Dave Grohl gave an epic performance of Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak during their crowd-rocking show

Dave Grohl gave an epic performance of Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak during their crowd-rocking show(Photograph by Enda Casey – Gasun)

The line-up for this gig was incredible. I was with my two teenage nieces, and we got as close to the stage as we could, by the barrier in front of the mosh pit. Hozier got the crowd warmed up with his big hit, Take Me to the Church, before Kaiser Chiefs came on playing I Predict a RiotOh My God and a cover of Pinball Wizard.

Finally, Foo Fighters came on stage launching into Everlong. The set list was full of energy which the crowd absorbed and gave right back, with lots of mini mosh pits forming amongst the 60,000 fans.

The highlight of the gig was when Dave came forward into the crowd and performed My Hero. They also covered Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak and Queen/Bowie’s Under Pressure, sung by Taylor Hawkins with Grohl on drums. Finally, they closed the set with a powerful rendition of AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock. The whole experience was one of sheer jubilation, with my nieces loving their first real rock show.

Guns ’N’ Roses, 2017

We left for the gig from Belfast and the atmosphere on the bus to Slane was great – with loads of excited fans, many, like us, wearing Guns ’N’ Roses T-shirts.

In true Irish fashion there was torrential rain, with water streaming down the famous field. Support came from Royal Blood, Otherkin and Mark Lanegan, but most of the fans were just braving the weather until G ’N’ R came on.

Once they hit the stage, however, the atmosphere was incredible. They sounded great and looked like they were having a great time. Classics like November RainParadise City and Welcome to the Jungle were lapped up by the crowd, and the band played with a lot of energy. While a cover of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun, played in tribute to the late Chris Cornell, made for a very emotional moment.

Metallica, 2019

<img src="; alt="<p>Metallica’s cover of Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back in Town was a highlight when they headlined

Metallica’s cover of Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back in Town was a highlight when they headlined(Paul Clarke)

It was a cold, wet evening, but when Metallica took to the stage and the opening bars of The Ecstasy of Gold started playing the audience roared with excitement. Their set list featured both old and new songs, as well as a memorable cover of Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back in Town.

Playing to the home crowd, Kirk included a snippet of The Wild Rover in his solo. While during Rob’s solo on Orion, a picture of the late Metallica guitarist Cliff Burton appeared on the big screen. A very beautiful moment.

During Seek and Destroy, a backdrop of early Metallica shows in small venues like SFX Centre, Top Hat, Antrim Forum and Ulster Hall lit up the stage.

Finally, Enter Sandman brought the gig to a climactic close with a massive fireworks display.

Words: Tony Fearon, Paul Clarke, Debbs McDonald, Gerry McDonald, John Byrne,  Brenda Maguire, Paul King, Tom Rowley, Mark Thompson

Slane Irish Whiskey: For the perfect St Patrick’s Day celebration

Forged within the idyllic Boyne Valley, Slane Distillery is built on the grounds of the legendary Slane Castle, an ancient estate where they make extraordinary whiskey and throw legendary gigs. Since the first incredible concert in 1981, Slane Castle has hosted some of the most iconic acts in music history. This year sees the return of the Slane Castle concerts for the first time since 2019.

Slane Irish Whiskey is a blend of malt and grain whiskeys which are matured using a signature triple-casked process that builds a complex and full-flavoured taste profile. Each cask is matured separately and then they are masterfully blended together.

Blending, like music, is about achieving the right balance between these different notes and with these three casks there are plenty of flavours to play with. From the virgin oak cask, there is vanilla and toasted oak, from the seasoned cask, brown sugar and ripe banana, while the oloroso sherry cask delivers dried fruits and spice. All of this comes together in the blend to create a rich, bold Irish whiskey that stands out, even when mixed into a classic cocktail or favourite mixer.

Click here to find out more about Slane whiskey, or order online.

Please drink responsibly.

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