Slane Castle Memories

40 years ago Slane Castle hosted the biggest outdoor concert in Ireland. 16/08/81 was the date of first concert headlined by Thin Lizzy.  Over 30,000 rock fans from all over Ireland came to what turned out to be one of the most successful music concerts organised in the country.

Slane Castle is in the village of Slane, within the Boyne Valley of County Meath and it takes roughly an hour and a half to get to from Belfast or if coming from Dublin less than an hour.

Prior to that there weren’t much big gigs in the country both north and south.  With the security situation in the north most bands didn’t quite come to Belfast so for a lot of us it was making the pilgrimage down south to see our favourite bands.

Thin Lizzy were supported by U2, who would return there to record their 1985 album The Unforgettable Fire and would eventually headline two shows in 2001.

Also, on the bill that day were Hazel O’Connor, Rose Tattoo, Sweet Savage, The Bureau and Megahype.

I was only 10 years old at the time and it would be a few years later that I would discover U2.

Following the success of the first concert they would get big names like the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Queen, David Bowie, Madonna to name but a few.

The gig I wish I was able to go to

My first memory of knowing about Slane Castle was when Bruce Springsteen arrived in 1985 during the Born in the USA tour.  I was a big fan the year before but was way to young to be travelling to such an event.  My parents didn’t let me go but I heard so many stories about it that I really wish I had been there.

The gig you and your friends couldn’t decide on

By the 1990s I was really getting into music but the problem I always faced was getting your friends to go along with you.  This was the case in 1992 when Guns N’Roses made their first visit to Ireland.  Supported by Faith No More and Soundgarden.  I had gone off the band a bit as grunge was taking over but trying to convince friends to go just to see Faith No More and Soundgarden was a hard sell, so no takers and I wasn’t brave enough to venture down on my own on a bus!

The gig I regret not going to

A year later and to this day one of my biggest regrets was not going to see Neil Young with Pearl Jam in support.  That gig on 10 July 1993 is for me the one that I should have went to but was out of country at the time it happened.  After that going to gigs took priority before going away anywhere.

My first Slane gig and the best

1995 and I finally make it to Slane!  REM brought the Monster tour to Ireland on 22/07/95 and I had only got into the band the year before.  Monster being the first REM album I bought.  Prior to that I really wasn’t into them, but this gig remains the best outdoor gig I have ever been to.  REM was just immense.

They ripped through 23 songs with the majority of it coming from Monster but we got other classics like Losing My Religion, Pop Song 89, Everybody Hurts and Finest Worksong. Topping it off with It’s The End of the World As We Know It.

Nearly outdone by Oasis who were support.  The way the crowd took to them was almost like they were the headliners.  Somebody chucked a plastic bottle at Liam Gallagher who almost walked off stage.  Oasis went down well with the crowd.  A year later they would be headlining their own outdoor shows with their famous two night stand at Knebworth.

Oasis would be back at Slane in 2009 but by then I had gone off their music and wasn’t interested in heading down to see them.  Support was decent enough with The Prodigy, Kasabian and Glasvegas but I wasn’t sure if I would stick two hours of the Gallagher brothers.

The rest of the support bill was great too with Belly, Spearhead, Luka Bloom and Sharon Shannon. A fantastic day and one I won’t forget in a hurry.

Least favourite Slane gig

My second visit was on 29 August 1998.  The Verve were headlining with support from Manic Street Preachers, Robbie Williams, Finlay Quaye, The Sea Horses, James and Junkster.

Me and my friends got down early enough and I don’t think we saw Junkster but were around for the rest of the bill.  I wasn’t too fussed on The Sea Horses who were fronted by John Squire (ex-Stone Roses).  Finlay Quaye and Robbie Williams didn’t quite float my boat either.  Within a year Robbie Williams would be headlining.

Favourites on the day were James and Manic Street Preachers.  I got to see them twice that weekend.  It was back to Belfast for the Manics gig at the Ulster Hall on the Sunday night.  By then they had just achieved their first no.1 single, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next.

When it came to The Verve it was a case of why bother.  The band were going through the motions, and it wasn’t a great gig as they were on the verge of breaking up.  Most people there only seemed to be familiar with Urban Hymans.  When they played some of their early stuff nobody knew any of the songs.  Leaving at the end there was a huge disappointment as you wanted it to be a good gig, but it wasn’t.

When everybody and their granny wants to see U2

Being a big U2 fan how I missed out on both 2001 shows remains a mystery.  The band had completely reinvented itself following the more experimental releases from the 1990s of Achtung Baby, Zooropa and Pop by returning to their early roots with All That You Can’t Believe Behind.

The first gig on 25 August 2001, the tickets sold out in no time (that explains how I didn’t get a ticket).  The Taoiseach requested a fast-track legislation to allow a second concert to take place, to accommodate the massive demand to see U2 live at Slane Castle. The two concerts were headlined by U2, and each concert brought an entirely different set of supporting acts.

The second gig came as a surprise, and I was over in Scotland at the time for a gig and missed out again!  The second one on 1 September had Foo Fighters for support but unfortunately, they cancelled and got replaced by Ash.  Foo Fighters would eventually return in 2003 supporting Red Hot Chilli Peppers, another gig that I should have been at, but those tickets flew out the window.  Support looked good on the day with PJ Harvey and Queens of the Stone.  Gutted to miss that one.

Slane 2015 – wet and wild

Foo Fighters finally made their headline debut on 30 May 2015.  It was a wet and wild day and not the best conditions of a concert.  Getting out of the place was hell.

Thanks to Tom Rowley for this picture of Dave Grohl

Support came from The Strypes, Ash, Hozier and Kaiser Chiefs.  Missed most of the support due to the difficulties getting into the venue.  Caught a bit of Hozier’s set and all of Kaiser Chiefs.

When Foo Fighters came on, they didn’t disappoint.  They had a runway stage and a b-stage.  That wasn’t used due to the rain all day.  My friend Tommy got some good photos from the gig despite the conditions.

Foo Fighters played a solid 23 song set including some nods to previous Slane headliners.  They covered Jailbreak by Thin Lizzy for the first time.  Thin Lizzy of course being the inaugural headliners from 1981. 

They also played Under Pressure by Queen who played here in1986.  A permanent fixture in most Foo Fighters concerts with Taylor Hawkins taking over vocal duties and Dave Grohl going being the drums.

Despite it being a very long and wet day, the last song was a cover of AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock.  That was a cue to start making the long way up the hill and back to the car.

Looking back and after buying the t-shirt on the day with the 2015 tour dates on it, little did we know that a few weeks later Dave Grohl would fall of the stage in Gothenburg, Sweden. We got lucky to see them that year.

Foo Fighters would return to Ireland in 2019 with shows in Belfast and Dublin.

Last visit to Slane 2019

Metallica made their first Irish visit since 2009 when they played two sold out shows at the Odyssey in Belfast while the Point was closed for refurbishment.

It was another wet day but wasn’t as bad as the weather from 2015.  For the first time we weren’t in a hurry to get down missing most of the support until we got into the amphitheatre. 

We could hear Stiff Little Fingers finishing off their set and we were in on time to see Ghost who seemed to be popular with the crowd down at the front. 

After Ghost finished it was the long wait for Metallica. Thankfully we didn’t have long to wait in the cold and wet evening as the opening bars of Ennio Morricone’s The Ectasty of Gold started playing and everybody was getting excited.

Launching in a 21 song strong set with quite a lot of new material being played from the recent Hardwired to Self-Destruct album, they treated the fans to a selection of songs from their back catalogue along with a cover of Thin Lizzy’s Whiskey in the Jar. The band acknowledging the connection Slane has to the first headliners.

Half way through it’s time for some solos from Kirk and Rob. Kirk treated us with a snippet of The Wild Rover during his solo but it was Rob’s bass solo that almost brought a tear to the eye of even the more hardened Metallica fan when they put a picture up on screen of the late Cliff Burton whilst Rob played Orion. It was just beautiful.

During Seek and Destroy, you could see the back drop showing a ticket stub from their SFX Centre show in Dublin. Early Metallica gigs before they hit the big arenas included Top Hat in Dún Laoghaire, Antrim Forum and Ulster Hall in Belfast.

Enter Sandman was the big finale with a massive fireworks display at the end. This was the cue to start heading up the hill but we stopped half way up to marvel at the speculator view of the stage from the hill.

A nice touch of Irish hospitality was presented to the band by U2 who gave them a picnic basket full of goodies to welcome them to Ireland.  Failte!

May Gigs

Continuing on from the April gigs, it was time to look at the month of May #gigoftheday.

This was a busy month gig wise over the years and at the end of the blog there is sort of mini-league table of the most seen acts over the years for the that month.

You can read more about the the 6 gigs in May here.

Top Performers
1. Bruce Springsteen (5)
2. And So I Watch You From Afar (3) & Teenage Fanclub (3)
3. Ash (2), The Breeders (2), The Undertones (2) and Catatonia (2)

April Gigs

With no gigs in nearly over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic started, I started looking back on my gig tickets and created a new almost daily post on Twitter, #gigoftheday.

This is a snapshot of all gigs that I have been to over the years in month of April.

Missed out on seeing these guys in 1994 but this gig made up for it.

First time seeing both of these bands.

You can spot the typo here! Should be American Hi-Fi.

Having seen Nirvana in 1992 was curious to see what the tribute band were like. They weren’t bad.

First time seeing Therapy? do an acoustic set. One of the best gigs I have seen them do.

A bittersweet moment as this would be the last time I would see Chris Cornell live who sadly died in 2017. RIP Chris.

6 Days in May – a gigging diary

There used to be an old gig diary ad in NME years ago that you could go to a gig every night of the week.

Well this day in 2002 I literally done that by going to six gigs in a row.  I was just one short of making it seven.

By this stage I think I had too much time on my hands.  I was still single, and all my gigging friends had moved to London to work so that didn’t leave too many friends back in Belfast who shared the same music tastes.

So, I ended up going to gigs on my own which broke a taboo that I had because I always felt self-conscious about myself and didn’t want to go to gigs on myself.  The pattern used to follow with friends along the lines of “do you want to go and see such and such a band?” which they would reply “not interested or don’t like them” sort of answer.  Result – missed out on loads of gigs during the 1990s because I didn’t want to go on my own.

That all changed by 1999 as we were about to hit the new millennium my gig buddy friends were relocating to work in London.  There would be advantages of that too as I would soon be making regular trips to London for gigs.

So, in 2002 I went to six gigs.  All by myself and two of them in Dublin.  And this is how it all started.

Thursday 2 May 2002

Rocket from The Crypt – Conor Hall, Belfast

This was my one and only visit to what was the Art College which was part of the University of Ulster.  Many bands including Radiohead, Buzzcocks, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, The Wedding Present, Lush and Therapy? have all played here.  One band that was scheduled to play there was to be Nirvana on 9 December 2001.  There was a lot of dates that got cancelled from the winter European tour including both Irish shows at McGonagles in Dublin and Conor Hall in Belfast.  By the time they came back to Ireland the following year they would play the bigger venues like The Point Depot and King’s Hall.

Back to Rocket from the Crypt, they stopped by Belfast for a show here at Conor Hall touring their new album, Group Sounds.  I had seen the band the previous year at the Astoria in London and they were brilliant live.

There haven’t been any gigs on the campus in years and it has since then been redeveloped.   From what I remember about the gig, it was a great venue and I wish I had seen a few more bands here.

Friday 3 May 2002

Evan Dando – Limelight, Belfast

I loved The Lemonheads back in the 1990’s but I was late getting into them.  I only discovered them when they released It’s a Shame About Ray in 1992.  Little did I know that they had been to Belfast the year before in the Ulster Hall. 

However, this was an Evan Dando solo gig and not billed as a Lemonheads show but he done a mixture of solo material and played some well-known Lemonheads songs to the delight of the sold-out crowd.

Saturday 4 May 2002

The White Stripes, Dublin Castle

Time to hit the road to Dublin for two gigs which were part of the Heineken Green Energy Festival which traditionally takes place over the May Bank Holiday weekend throughout various venues in Dublin.

First up was The White Stripes at Dublin Castle who were touring their album White Blood Cells.  I first saw them at Witnness 2001 where they played in a tent the previous summer. 

This was my first visit to Dublin Castle which is in Dame Street and is literally just across the road from the Olympia Theatre.  There is a rich history about the place as this was the seat of the British government’s administration in Ireland until 1921.  Usually hosts the inauguration of each President of Ireland and other State receptions so it was a unique setting for a gig.

The concert was outdoors in the courtyard and The White Stripes brought their own handpicked support bill with The Von Bondies, The Dirtbombs and The Detroit Cobras.    It was a fantastic show and the band had come a long way since their Irish debut at Witnness in the tent.

Sunday 5 May 2002

Muse and The Hives – Dublin Castle.

By the time I had bought a ticket for The Hives they were down for a headline show at the Ambassador Theatre at the top of O’Connell Street.    This venue was originally one of Dublin’s longest running cinemas from 1897 up until 1999.  Between 2001 and 2008 it hosted gigs and I have been to quite a few here.

When Muse got announced for Dublin Castle on same day that The Hives were to play the Ambassador for some reason the promoters changed things and The Hives ended up as support to Muse. Both bands were enjoying a high profile at the time.

Muse were touring their new album Origin of Symmetry from 2001 and sold-out Dublin Castle in no time.  Whilst in Dublin, I took the opportunity to visit my friend Seamus who lived in Dublin and called round to see him before heading to the gig.

By the time I got to the gig, the front row was completely full and there was an extra barrier.  I can’t remember if that was the same set up from the previous night as I was closer to the stage for The White Stripes.

Both bands were amazing live, but I thought The Hives would have been better indoors.  I wouldn’t be disappointed as I also had a ticket to see them in Belfast!

Monday 6 May 2002

The Hives – Limelight, Belfast

After staying overnight in Dublin, it was time to make the journey back to Belfast for gig number five.  A much smaller venue than what they were originally supposed to play in Dublin, from an old cinema to a castle courtyard, the Limelight was the perfect place to see the band.  It was very sweaty, and everybody had a great time.  People were leaving with grins on their faces.  It was like you had just witnessed the best concert you have ever been too.  The band didn’t disappoint, and I enjoyed this set more than the previous night in Dublin. One of the best gigs I have been to the in the Limelight.

Tuesday 7 May 2002

Ikara Colt – Limelight, Belfast

By the time I got to day six I was knackered.  Being out for the five previous nights had taken its toll on me and I was just tired by this stage.  Ikara Colt released Chat and Business in 2002 and were influenced by the likes of Sonic Youth and The Fall.

Support from the evening came from The Parkinson’s originally from Portugal but based in London.  NME compared them to The Stooges and called them “Europe’s snotty, messed up answer to The Strokes.

From what I remember about the gig it was the only one that I had been too over the six days that wasn’t sold out.  Think it was quite a sparse crowd attending this.  Even the support act was a bit intimidating coming off the stage and mingling with the crowd!  By the end of the night, I think I left feeling a bit indifferent probably the one gig of the six nights that I didn’t enjoy as much.

Since then, I have never quite hit the same heights of numerous gigs like that again.  Last time it would be four nights when the MTV music awards came to Belfast in 2011 and there was lots happening around the city for that.  Now I settle for one gig and maybe two as a bonus!

Christmas Gigs

Over the years it has been a tradition of mine to get to a concert any time in December and all the more merrier when it is closer to Christmas. With no Christmas shows or gigs this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this blog is just a snap shot of gigs that I have been to over the years.

Disclaimer: one of these gigs I didn’t attend personally but sat at home on New Year’s Eve to tape U2 live from Dublin. Couldn’t go to the show but this was a close as I was going to get.

A very Therapy? Christmas

Therapy? headlining the Ulster Hall three times in the month of December over the years – 1992, 1993 and 1995. The 1995 show was supported by Ash and it was also Fyfe Ewing’s (Therapy? drummer) last show with the band.

Ash Christmas

Ash remain the only band that I have went to see on back to back gigs – 2001 at the Ulster Hall. The 2000 gig in the Limelight was supported by Snow Patrol.

And So I Watch You From Afar Christmas shows

And So I Watch You From Afar (ASIWYFA) have done three Christmas shows in three different venues in Belfast.

Dublin Christmas gigs

A few of the Dublin gigs I have attended over the years. I only came across the U2 tape recently and thought it would be nice to be included here. The band did a four night residency at the new Point Depot (now the 3Arena) in Dublin. The New Years Eve gig was broadcast on Radio 1 and I sat up and taped it.

London Christmas gigs

A visit to my friend David who lives in London and we went to see all these bands over the three days. Two trips to Wembley Arena and the last gig at the Royal Albert Hall.

Other Christmas gigs 1992 – 2019

The last batch of tickets are from 1992 to 2019. Some amazing shows amongst this lot.

Just want to wish everybody that has followed the blog a very happy and safe Christmas and hopefully a more positive New Year too.

Reading Festival

During the 1990’s I looked on in awe at the lineups that the Reading Festival had. It was just like all my favourite bands being in the one place at the one time. Only problem was I wasn’t there!

I never thought for a moment that I would ever get the chance to experience this type of festival. At the time cheap air travel didn’t exist and I recently found out that anybody from Ireland would have made the trip over and you would have done it by boat and coach journeys. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and there are times I wish I had been a wee bit forward planning on going to these gigs.

The closest I would get to experience the festival was catching the late night highlights on ITV for The Beat programme. You didn’t get full sets but you would have got maybe 20 or 30 minutes footage of some of the bands playing.

I also taped a few shows from Radio 1. Nirvana’s legendary 1992 set I still have on tape as well as owning the official release. Came across another tape of highlights of Rage Against The Machine in 1993. That was the year I got to see the band play Belfast before they headed over to Reading.

For a lot of us on this side of the Irish Sea we would have been relying on bands on tour to make a stop over to either Belfast or Dublin. An example of this was Reading 1995 which had both Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins playing. Both bands played Dublin beforehand. Unlucky not to get tickets for Smashing Pumpkins, I got to see Soundgarden instead.

By 1999 I lost my festival virginity at Glastonbury. That was the start and I wanted to go to another one and that came in the year 2000 when I went over to London to see my friends David and Mark who had moved over to work there. We got tents and hired a car and it was about an hour and a half drive down the M25.

We got there on the Thursday evening and set up tent. By Friday morning we would make our way to the site and there queues were huge. Not knowing what the set up was we ending up bunking the queue to the annoyance of others (understandably) but hey, we’re here for the first time and don’t know what the drill was.

First important thing to do for the weekend was to grab a festival t-shirt (always a sucker for these) and the all important programme so you can plan out on what bands you want to see and who you don’t want to see. The beauty of bands clashing gives you that option to move onto another stage.

For 2000, there were about five different stages – the Main Stage, Radio 1 Evening Session Stage which was a big tent along with three other smaller stages for dance, up and coming bands and the comedy stage.

We spent most of our time at the Main Stage and the Radio 1 stage. When we got into the main arena our first port of call was the main stage where we caught the end of Asian Dub Foundation’s set. Happy enough with the spot we got we stayed there pretty much for the rest of the day taking in Limp Bizkit who were awful. After that the line up was pretty decent so we got closer to the front for The Bluetones, Foo Fighters and Primal Scream. All three bands performed great sets.

Oasis were headlining and by this stage I had gone off them so it was going to be a case of splitting up and going to the tent. David and Mark decided to stay for Oasis. I stayed for one song and they bolted to the tent to see Muse. At this point the tent was completely rammed with punters trying to get in to see them. Reminded me of hearing about Foo Fighter’s Reading debut which was in a tent in 1995 and now they were on the main stage. No regrets about going to see Muse as they were brilliant.

For day two we more or less knew the layout of the land and of course after having some late breakfast we were heading back to the arena from our tents and we go straight to the Radio 1 stage to catch Dublin’s JJ72. Great to see an Irish band at a festival. After them was And You Will Know Us By Trail of Dead. David and Mark moved on to the beer tent and I caught up with them afterwards.

The booze was really flowing for those two and with me being teetotal I was more interested in going to see bands! I kept pestering them to get down to the front for Idlewild and then meet up for Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA) in the tent. I saw Idlewild on my own, headed over to the tent for QOSTA and now I had lost both of them. The rest of the day I spent on my own down at the front and I can’t say I was disappointed as I caught some fantastic sets by Deftones, Elastica, Super Furry Animals, Gomez and Beck. I am trying to remember if I finished at the main stage for Pulp or made it over to the tent for Embrace. Totally can’t remember and I wasn’t even drinking! By the end of the night I trooped back to the tent to find David and Mark there. They fell into the river (not a nice experience considering what was going into it!) and had been back at the tent for a while. I guess they missed most of Saturday.

So those two got sobered up for day 3 and the final day. The plan was to take the tent down and take all our belongings to the car. We then spent the whole day at the main stage witnessing the hilarious performance of Daphne and Celeste coming on stage to a torrent of abuse and being pelted by bottles. Apparently that was a Reading tradiation.

Staying at the main stage all day Sunday we watched My Vitriol, Cay, Supersuckers and A. Biggest disappointment of the day was Blink 182. Some catchy songs but they were terrible and more interested in cracking smutty jokes. Nevermind! Rage Against the Machine were on next and I totally forgot all about Blink 182. Now how the organisers thought that Rage should be on before Slipknot was a real mystery. Rage were awesome. Great to see them again. Slipknot were a bit amusing. Couldn’t get over their fans all dressing up on a really warm day in jumpsuits and gas masks.

So it was then back down to the front to see Placebo and then main headliners Stereophonics who surprisingly enough more or less phoned their performance in. Tom Jones also made an appearance onstage for their duet of Mamma Told Me Not To Come. As the band were finishing their encore we beat a hastily retreat back to the car to avoid the crowds and hit the M25 back to London. My first Reading and I wanted to go back again.

Missed 2001 as I had been to quite few festivals that summer. Reading 2002 was a stag weekend of sorts as my friend Paddy was getting married and was coming back to Belfast. Instead of doing the 3 day weekend we settled for a two day pass for Friday and Saturday only.

A decent line up overall. I wish we stayed for Sunday but sure what can you do. So for Friday we started off at the main stage with The Soundtrack of our Lives, Mercury Rev, The Dandy Warhols and The White Stripes on the main stage.

We took a trip over to the Radio 1 tent to see the much hyped The Vines which was almost like a second coming of Nirvana. After that it was back to the main stage and we caught the tail end of Weezer’s set.

After that it rained! Rest of the guys bolted for cover for during the rain Jane’s Addiction were on and I wasn’t missing that. Result was I lost everybody and spent the rest of the night down at the front for Pulp and The Strokes. It was only after that when I met everybody again.

So Saturday was the last day which was spent switching between the main stage and the Radio 1 stage. In the tent we got to see Rival Schools and The Cooper Temple Clause. Over on the main stage we saw A and The Hives. Ash were quite high up the bill this year and I caused a mosh pit by charging into the crowd. One of my more madder moments resulting in me getting dragged into the moshpit I created! Mark end up crowd surfing! We chucked him over the crowd and he didn’t get down until reaching the stage. Glad it wasn’t me as I would have flattening everybody.

The final two acts of the evening were Muse and Foo Fighters. The Reading Festival can be compared to a football league table as you can see how bands move up and down of over the years. So for 2002 Foo Fighters headlined for the first time and Muse were on the main stage for the first time after headlining the Radio 1 tent in 2000.

My final Reading was 2004 and I think the weakest line up. Looking back at 2004 not much stands out. Of course some of my favourite bands would be there, Ash again on main stage not to be missed. They have played this festival ten times since 1996 and I have seen them twice. There wasn’t a great deal of organising what bands to go to see so for the Friday it was The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Modest Mouse and Super Furry Animals in the tent. Back to main stage for The Distillers, The Hives, The Offspring and The Darkness (the one band I wanted to avoid!)

Saturday we spent most of the day at the main stage for Thursday, Razorlight and New York Dolls. The only time we headed to the tent was to see 80’s Matchbox B-Line Disaster who were absolutely mental. Great performance! Back over to the main stage to conclude the evening with Franz Ferdinard, The Libertines, Morrrissey and The White Stripes.

Sunday was a disaster day as the main stage descended into chaos. I don’t think we got to see a lot of bands that day. The Rasmus was bottled off after two songs resulting in the stage times changing. We stayed at the main stage for Dropkick Murphys, The Streets, Lostprophets and Placebo. 50 Cent was on next and nobody was interested so it was off to the tent again catching British Sea Power and The Von Bondies.

What we didn’t know was 50 Cent withdrew from the main stage as he was pelted with bottles and that meant Green Day’s set came forward. But we never knew and stayed in the tent for Supergrass. When they finished their set, you could still hear Green Day from the distance but by then fatigue had set in and everybody just wanted to get back to London.

King’s Hall Memories

On the way to work recently I have been watching the latest developments as major construction work is being done on the site.

The Kings Hall hasn’t been used in a long while now that the SSE Arena is the major venue for concerts in Belfast now.  But years before the Odyssey was even built, the Kings Hall was the only venue in Belfast capable of hosing the big names that came to Belfast even at the height of the Troubles.

The venue hosted more than just music as it had hosted major boxing finals and was also home to the yearly Ideal Home Exhibition.  During the 80s my mum and dad would bring me to that.  It was fascinating walking around seeing all the exhibits of the day that people would try to sell you.

The venue also hosted fun fairs like Funderland and Planet Fun as well.

There is a rich history of musical legends that have graced the Kings Hall over the years.  During my teenage years, U2 were my favourite band whilst I was at school.  For my 16th birthday I got The Joshua Tree album but little did I know that U2 were going to be playing there that summer.  I never got a ticket for it and didn’t even have the guts to wander down to it in the hope of blagging it in!  Wasn’t cheeky enough to attempt that.

It wouldn’t be until September 1989 that I finally got a chance to go to a gig and it was in the King’s Hall.  As the subject when I first started this blog, my first gig was Simple Minds.img_0054

They had just released Street Fighting Years which is 30 years old this year.  Belfast Child was the first big hit single from it and was the first Simple Minds record I ever bought.  I was a bit late getting into them as most of the guys in my year in school were already listening to them in 1986 when Alive and Kicking was released but like everything else it took me a while to get into them.  Think it was listening to the live version of Ghostdancing that changed my mind about them.

I went with my cousin John who took my second ticket.  The tickets I got were a leaving present when I was leaving Allied Irish Bank in Belfast that summer.  Support on the night came from fellow Glaswegians, Gun.  For my first gig I really enjoyed it.  I was totally blown away by the whole experience.  Why did it take me so long to go to a gig?  There was no going back now.

It won’t be nearly another year before I am back again and this time it is to see Iron Maiden make their Belfast debut.

Iron Maiden had just released No Prayer For The Dying which was the first Iron Maiden album I ever bought.  I had listened to some of their songs  before but for some reason I really wasn’t getting into heavy metal in my early teens.  Iron Maiden

This was a mental gig.  I was with friends and we were nearly down at the front.  It was like a tidal wave of bodies and at times felt a bit frightening but the place was absolutely buzzing when Maiden came on.  It was a really good gig.  Different to Simple Minds but equally enjoyable.

After the gig we went backstage to see if we could meet the band coming out.  Sadly Bruce and the boys never ventured out but we did meet Wolfbane who were supporting and got our tickets signed.

The next big gig at the King’s Hall was the legendary AC/DC.  The Australian band were on the road promoting their new album, The Razor’s Edge.  Thunderstuck was the big single from that album.AC DC

I never thought I would get to see this band and they were amazing live.  My ears were ringing for days as at the end of the gig we had the bells going off and 21 gun salute with fake dollar bills falling down from the ceiling.  Probably the loudest gig I had ever been too.  Even louder than Iron Maiden.  Support on the night came from King’s X.

In 1992, I went to the King’s Hall three times that year.  First up it was Nirvana, finally making their Belfast debut.  I think they were due to play Belfast some time in 1991 but it never happened.  img_4315

By now Nevermind had gone global and we were being swept away by the grunge revolution and they weren’t going to be playing smaller venues anymore.  This was the game changer for me.  Nirvana were opening doors for other bands that I would never had heard of and this was all before the internet.

This was a great gig.  It was the kind of event that appealed to everybody at the time, metal kids and indie kids alike.  Support was obviously hand picked by Kurt Cobain.  We had Teenage Fancub opening up along with The Breeders .  Both brilliant acts.  At the end of the gig I was dripping in sweat from head to toe.  It was just mental.

Following Nirvana, Def Leppard were next.  This was quite a contrast in gigs as by the time I had bought tickets for both bands after the Def Leppard gig I would be finding myself going off them.IMG_E4316

I really liked them around the time of Hysteria.  They toured that album first at the Ulster Hall in 1987 and returned to Belfast the following year to the Kings Hall but I never made it to either show.

The follow up to Hysteria was Adrenalize and I must admit was my least favourite album.  They were bring their new world tour to Belfast in the round format.

The stage was set right in the middle of the hall and the band would move around the stage during the performance apart from the drummer.  This was a bit awkward to watch at times and I didn’t really enjoy it.

The last gig of 1992 was the return of Extreme to Belfast.  High on the success of Pornograffiti they were moved up to the Kings Hall following a successful sell out show at the Ulster Hall the previous year.img_4320

Like a lot of things happening in 1992, my musically direction was changing but I kind of had a soft spot for this band.  Was doing a bit of research for their second Belfast gig and there wasn’t even an entry for the 1992 show.  I think it may have been poorly attended as alternative and grunge was definitely taking off at the time.

1996 saw me attend two completely different shows that blew me away.  The first one was Bruce Springsteen coming to Belfast for the first time.  Having previous seen the Boss in Dublin in 1993, this was a big deal as Bruce was coming to Belfast on his own.

Springstreen 96

I also missed the chance of actually meeting him as my mates got down early and I was on my way home from work.  My dad was giving me a lift home and I saw my mates standing at the Kings Hall gates.  Little did I know Bruce Springsteen was on his way!  What a chance to meet him!

Bruce had just released The Ghost of Tom Joad which was a more stripped back Bruce album like Nebraska.  The E Street Band were not involved in this tour.  The Kings Hall is notorious for its awful sound so preparations were made to make the sound of the hall suited for an acoustic performance.  This was an all seated gig and it was probably one of the best Bruce Springsteen shows I have ever been too.

The second ground breaking gig that year was the Prodigy.  This was a major first for me as this would be my first dance gig.  Previously I had no time for dance music but suddenly I was finding that there was actually some good dance music out there and it was just as good as rock music.Prodigy 96 (2)

Case to the point of The Prodigy.  I didn’t like their earlier stuff as I really didn’t like rave music at the time but suddenly with the release of The Fat of the Land everything changed for me.  Singles like Breathe and Firestarter got me interested in them.

At the start I was wondering why I was there with lots of the audience waving glow sticks but when The Prodigy took to the stage all doubts were blown away.  They were fantastic live.  Probably one of the best dance gigs I have ever been too.

I wouldn’t be back to the Kings Hall again until 1999 when Garbage came to Belfast for the first time.  I had become a big fan of the band in 1995 and remember actually buying both their album and Morning Glory by Oasis on the same day.garbage

I first got to see them at the Big Day Out in Galway the year before but it was a very disappointing performance that day as they were late, played a short set and then had to leave for a gig in Scotland.

The gig in Belfast was good.  Was great to finally see them.  Support on the evening came from Moloko who I absolutely detested!

Big gig of the summer of 1999 was the arrival of Manic Street Preachers playing the Kings Hall for the first time ever.  This was warm up gig prior to their headline slot at Glastonbury which I was also at.manics-99

The Manics had enjoyed the success of their first no.1 single, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next the previous summer and had now hit the big time with This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours.  Support on the night came from Super Furry Animals.

After 1999 the music landscape in Belfast was changing.  The Odyssey was being built and soon it would be the new venue to see big bands come to Belfast.  February 2008 would be the last gigs I would attend in the Kings Hall.

First up was Queens of the Stone Age finally coming to Belfast.  I remember having tickets for their gig at the Limelight in 2000 which never happened as Rated R got big and the Limelight was too small for them!  Prior to that I got to see them at the Reading festival and also in Dublin.QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE

The band were promoting their new album Era Vulgaris and the band were in stunning form.  Support on the evening came from Portadown’s In Case of Fire.

I kept thinking the Kings Hall was an odd venue for them.  They were not big enough for the Odyssey but easily could have played at the Ulster Hall but I think they Ulster Hall had been closed for redevelopment at the time.

Finally I got to see the Smashing Pumpkins in Belfast.  Having only ever seen them once before in 1999 when they broke up on stage at Wembley Arena it was great to finally see them in Belfast.SMASHING PUMPKINS

I had a ticket to see them at the Ulster Hall in 1996 but it was cancelled out of respect then a huge crush had killed a young fan, Bernadette O’Brien at the Point.  The internet was in it’s early days and it was hard to get information on whether the gig was going ahead but it got cancelled.

The Smashing Pumpkins got back together in 2008 for a 20th anniversary concert.  While it was great to see them you got a sense the gig was big on nostalgia playing the songs we really wanted to here.  It would also be the last time I would get to see the band.  Support came from Concerto for Constantine.

That the was last of the gigs inside the Kings Hall.  I had never been to any gigs in the smaller Nugent Hall which was at the back but the very last gig I went to in the actual grounds of the complex was to see Bruce Springsteen do a huge outdoor show in 2013.

At first I thought it was a mistake thinking Bruce Springsteen was playing in the Kings Hall.  I can’t remember who was last to play there but when Bruce was announced I wondered why not the Odyssey but then it turned it out he was doing five gigs throughout Ireland that summer as part of the Wrecking Ball tour and one of them was in Belfast which was great not having to travel to Dublin to see him.

Prior to the show, Bruce done a five song acoustic set before the rest of the E Street Band came onstage.  I was at the gig with friends and we were a bit late getting in a the queue was huge for this one.  I think we caught the tail end of the acoustic set from the distance.

Bruce gigs are an amazing experience.  Quite a lot of the crowd were holding up signs for songs that they want him to play.  We got three that evening.  Bruce as always was on top form and he finished the set with an acoustic version of Thunder Road on his own.

So and end of an era.  The once big venue for music gigs was no longer hosting shows.  The Odyssey, now SSE Arena is the main venue for gigs now.

I hope that whatever happens during the redevelopment that they make a bit of room to show the history of the place as I am sure people would like to see old photos of previous events and gig tickets over the years.






The new year starts off with the very first Kerrang tour to come to Belfast.  This was their version of the NME tour where the metal magazine selects four bands on a bill for their tips of the year.BIFFY KERRANG

Headlining this gig at Mandela Hall was Biffy Clyro who were just six months away from releasing their breakthrough album, Puzzle.  Support came from The Bronx, The Audition and I Am Ghost.

I took Gillian’s cousin to the gig but we made it down in time for The Bronx and Biffy Clyro, missing the other two bands.  Biffy Clyro were incredible live.  To think you were witnessing them in a smaller setting compared to the big arenas that they are currently playing in.  We will catch up with them later on this as they will making a return visit to the same venue later on in the year.

In February, we had a trip over to Glasgow courtesy of my friend Colin who lives there.  He bought myself and Gillian a nights stay in a hotel in Glasgow for our wedding and we headed over to see The Killers at the SECC Arena (now the Hydro).  Colin came along to the gig as well.KILLERS GLASGOW

The Killers had just released Sam’s Town for their second album after the success of Hot Fuss.  Support came from Black Rebel Motorcyle club who also had a new album out, Baby 81.  I guess I was more excited about BRMC than the Killers at the time as I never really took to the second album like I did for the first album.

It was a decent enough performance by The Killers but after the gig I would find myself going off them which would result in seeing them for one last time later on in the summer.

There were no gig in March to go to, so next up was  James at the  Olympia Theatre in Dublin in April.JAMES

This was my second time seeing James in this iconic venue.  Quite possibly my favourite venue in Dublin.  The band reformed in 2007 and were getting ready to release a new album which would be coming out the following year.

James are a great live band with Tim Booth as a very energetic and lively front man with his mad dancing on stage.  This was a great gig.   Not sure about the ticket stub though!  We got a lovely print at home one.  Doesn’t have the same quality!

Next gig was the return of the Lemonheads to Belfast in May which was the last Irish stop of the tour having played at Cork, Galway and Dublin.  LEMONHEADS

Lemonheads gigs tend to be a mixture of being great and being chaotic.

Probably depending on what mood Evan Dando is in! Thankfully this gig at the Mandela Hall was the latter!

The band were in fine form giving us a blast of 90s nostalgia.

In June, local heroes Ash returned to Belfast’s Spring and Airbrake after 2005’s riotous sell-out show.ASH SPRING

This time the band were back to a three piece following the departure of guitarist Charlotte Hatherley.  Definitely much missed.  Ash released their fifth album, Twilight of the Innocents that year.  Must admit I think this is their weakest album but they always cut it live.

They would be back again in Belfast later on in the year.

A few weeks later I was over in London to see the White Stripes for what ended up as a free ticket!  Gillian won two tickets courtesy of O2 and asked me who I would like to see.  The White Stripes were headlining Hyde Park as part of the O2 Wireless festival so I opted for that.  WHITE STRIPES

She didn’t go to the gig with me so I went over to London and stayed with my friend David who took the other ticket.  Hyde Park is a huge place.  This was the first gig I had ever been to at the venue.

The White Stripes had just released a new album, Icky Thump and were promoting it.  It was a full support bill.   Main support was Queens of the Stone Age which I was pleased to get to see them again.  Trying to remember the other bands that were on the bill but not remembering too much as I think we just about got there in time for Queens of the Stone Age.

Queens of the Stone Age were excellent as always.  The White Stripes were great too.  I think this may have been the last time I would get to see them.

Summer back home was much quieter gig wise.  I was no longer heading down for Oxegen so the next big gig was Tennent’s Vital which came to Belfast’s Ormeau Park for two days in August.  It was a case of picking which one to go to as none of my friends were going to do both.  Day 1 was headlined by Razorlight with support from Manic Street Preachers. KILLERS VITAL

That would have been my choice but then I didn’t like Razorlight so left it would have been a waste of money so we ended up with The Killers on day 2.   Apart from Mark Ronson, the rest of the support bill was quite good – Kasabian (before they went rubbish), The Shins and Albert Hammond jr from the Strokes.

However as far as gigs go it was aright.  The sound wasn’t the best and it ended up as the last ever Killers gig I would go to.

Next up was Idlewild.  After a two month break of not seeing anybody this was a welcome return to the live scene.IDLEWILD

Idlewild are one of my favourite bands and they never disappoint.   This gig at Mandela Hall was celebrating the bands 10th birthday as they released as best of collection ‘Scottish Fiction’.  I don’t think I have ever been a bad Idlewild gig.


Sometimes you get gigs that you go to and wonder WTF!  Well, this next one definitely sums it up!YOU SAY PARTY

My friend Paddy picked a gig to go to at the Spring and Airbrake.  You Say Party! We Say Die! was definitely getting filed under WTF as to be honest I have no idea what we were thinking of going to this one!

My wife seemed to have the knack of wining tickets for gigs.  This never really happens to me as I haven’t won a concert ticket since that Big Country gig back in 1991!

Anyway, I am not complaining as this being the third ticket she has one.  This time for Crowded House at the Waterfront.CROWDED HOUSE

Now I must admit I was never a big fan.  I think that song back in the early 90s about the weather did my head in that I was instantly turned off them, as everywhere you went (no pun intended!) they were always on the radio with that song!

However, I was willing to give it a chance even for a seated gig and I will admit I was pleasantly surprised that I actually did enjoy this gig.  Sometimes you have to go beyond the song that you despise.

Ash came back to Belfast in December and finished their 2007 shows in ephantic style in  playing a 24 song set in front of a home crowd packed with their friends and familiesAsh Mandela.

For the encore of the year the band were joined on stage by friends Barry Peak, frontman of school friends and mentors Laser Gun Nun (more recently Backwater) for a cover of their anthem, and Cosmic Debri, ‘Melon Farmer’. Then ending the night with Nathan Connelly from Snow Patrol on guitar for ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Burn Baby Burn’.  Mark also teased the crowd almost providing ‘Goldfinger’ backing vocals.

Following this was a return visit to Belfast by Black Rebel  Motorcycle Club who had released the really excellent Baby 81 album.BRMC

Having seen them support The Killers in Glasgow earlier in the year it as great to see the band showcase their new material that night.

A great gig by a great band.

Last gig of the year was going to be Biffy Clyro.

They were the first band I would see at the start of the year and it was kind of appropriate that they would be the band that would close 2007.Biffy Mandela Dec

From that moment in January the wheels were in motion that this would be Biffy’s year and it certainly was.

Puzzle was released in the summer and it would become their breakthrough album.  The kind of album that would divide fans into old and new.

A bit like the Manic Street Preachers in a way.  While the new stuff is definitely more radio friendly, it is in no comparison to the edgy sound of the first three albums.

But no matter what you think of old Biffy vs new Biffy you couldn’t deny that they are great live.  This might be the last chance to get to see them in a small setting and they didn’t disappoint.

Goodbye Mandela Hall

Mandela Hall at Queen’s Students Union closed in the summer of 2018 to make way for the new Students Union building.  The demolition team finally went to work yesterday and it was quite a sad say to see such an iconic venue come down with the main building.

Easily the best music venue in Belfast, since it’s closure it has been a major loss to the scene.  One of my first gigs since the closure was to see The Lemonheads at Elmwood Hall across the road but it wasn’t the best venue and I felt the closure of the Students Union has impacted on the gigs.

The building is over 50 years old and it previously hosted gigs as the McMordie Hall where the likes of U2, Stiff Little Fingers and The Clash had played in the late 70s/early 80s.  It was renamed Mandela Hall in 1986.

Looking back on the rich music history of bands that have played this iconic venue I must admit I was bit late discovering it and am envious of anybody that saw some great shows here.

My first gig there was in 1991 when I won tickets to see Big Country.  I wouldn’t be back at the venue again until 1996 when I went to see Lush.  So I have missed a lot of great bands during the 1990s that I like that have graced the stage but looking back I can see why I missed them as I didn’t like to go to gigs on my own compared to now.

Since then I have seen loads of great bands, some great memories and if it is coming back will it capture the same atmosphere of the old building.

So looking back at this fantastic venues, this is all the bands that I have seen here.

1991 Big Country

1996 Lush

2001 Therapy?

2002 Gomez, Hundred Reasons

2003 Idlewild, Public Enemy, Electric Six, Therapy?, Mogawi

2004 Therapy?, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Snow Patrol, The Polyphonic Spree, Hope of the States

2005 Idlewild, Rooster, Funeral for a Friend, Teenage Fanclub

2006 Editors, Deftones, Snow Patrol

2007 Ash, Biffy Clyro x 2, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Idlewild, The Lemonheads

2008 Eels

2010 Therapy?

2011 Glasvegas, Lisa Hannigan, And So I Watch You From Afar

2012 Ministry, Explosions in the Sky, Rancid, Mark Lanegan

2013 Frightened Rabbit

2014 First Aid Kit

2015 And So I Watch You From Afar, Villagers, Swans, Echo and the Bunnymen

2016 Ash, Wolf Alice, The Cult

2017 Mark Lanegan

2018 The The, And So I Watch You From Afar

Sunstroke Festival returns after 25 year hiatus

This evening I have just been stunned to hear the news that Ireland’s Sunstroke festival is back after a 25 year absence.

I saw posts on Facebook over the last day or so that Faith No More were teasing a new tour. My mate Paul asked me was it definitely on after finding out about the fakes news of Rage Against The Machine coming to Dublin next summer.

So you can imagine my surprise and indeed joy when I saw the line up. This time a 2 day festival like the old Witnness/Oxegen festivals at Punchestown Racecourse in County Kildare.

When I saw the poster it was like Christmas came early. Dare I say quite more appealing than Download Festival especially when this one is on your doorstep.

So I said to Paul and we are definitely up for it. Whether we do both days or just one is going to depend on who plays under the headliners. Faith No More headline Saturday whilst Deftones headline on Sunday.

Anyway we both have a history of going to the previous one day festivals. The first one was in 1993 at Dalymount Park. The headliners were meant to be Red Hot Chili Peppers but they withdrew due to personnel problems in the band and were replaced by Faith No More.

This was definitely one of the best gigs I have been to. Faith No More unleashed a crazy and wild performance which had the place bouncing. It was unreal.

The rest of the bill was great too. Also playing were Sonic Youth, Sugar, Belly and Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.

1994 same venue and the one I missed due to not being able to get time off work. The gig was on a Thursday. Really regretted missing this one as it was a great line up.

Red Hot Chili Peppers returned to Ireland that year with support from Frank Black, Helmet, Ice Cube (they replaced Soundgarden who dropped out), Terrorvision alongside local acts Therapy? and My Little Funhouse.

A year later it was back again, this time it had moved to the RDS due to complaints of noise from the residents who lived alongside Dalymount Park.

Looking back on this one this was definite a scheduling nightmare. The day before Smashing Pumpkins we’re playing at the Olympia and had added a second date at same venue which clashed with Sunstroke which was headlined by Soundgarden.

The venue was also strange as it was almost like Dublin’s version of the King’s Hall. Even stranger this was an indoor gig rather than an outdoor one. Support came from Mudhoney, White Zombie, Pennywise, Tad and Sponge. Wasn’t my favourite as the sound was awful.

It is great that Sunstroke is back and I am definitely looking forward to going down to it. A long overdue festival to these shores.