Music life in lockdown week 20

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 20 covers from 3-8 August.

A new month. Who would have thought I would be still working from home by August? Lockdown restrictions are eased in many places as we try to get back to some sense of normality. Going to gigs seems to be a long way off at the moment. I have decided to keep the title instead of changing it as it is really my diary of what I have been listening to during the pandemic.

Monday 3 August

Kicking off the new month with a bit of US punk. I picked two albums by Descendents and three albums by Green Day. Also included is a NME CD called Generation Punk which is pretty good collection of old and new punk groups.

I started off with this CD first and there were some really great songs on it – Knowledge by Operation Ivy (which is often covered by Green Day live), The American Ruse by MC5, California Uber Alles by Dead Kennedys and Tin Soldiers by Stiff Little Fingers, to name up a few.

This set the day up nicely and the it was onto Descendents. I must admit I had no prior knowledge of this band but they are very influential with a lot of modern punk bands that I have been listening to like Blink 182, Green Day, The Offspring and The Ataris.

The two albums I have, Everything Sucks (1996) which was their fifth album and Hypercaffium Spazzinate (2016) their seventh album. Both really enjoyable albums. I haven’t had a chance to check out their other albums.

I got into Green Day post-grunge. The grunge revolution had come to a halt following the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994 and it lead to another generation of American bands coming thorough one of the being Green Day with the single Basket Case. What I didn’t know about the band was that they were around when Nirvana were still active and had even been to Belfast for a gig at Richardson Social Club in town. That would have been a great one to go to but I would get to see them in the Ulster Hall in 1998.

Dookie (1994) was their major label debut, followed by Insomniac (1995) and  Nimrod (1997).  Of those three album, Nimrod is my favourite.  During lockdown Billy Joe Armstrong took to social media and did some tunes.  One of the songs he picked was War Stories by Belfast band The Sabrejets who had minor chart success with this back in the 80s.  It is a pretty good cover and the song name checks popular British WW2 characters Captain Hurricane and Johnny Red from Battle comic and Sargent Fury from Marvel American comics.

Tuesday 4 August

Today it was a chance to catch up with Nirvana’s producer Butch Vig who formed Garbage back in 1993.

Garbage were Scottish singer and musician Shirley Manson (vocals) and American musicians Duke Erikson (guitar, bass, keyboards), Steve Marker (guitar, keyboards), and Butch Vig (drums, production).

The band’s eponymous debut album was critically acclaimed upon its release, accompanied by a string of increasingly successful singles from 1995 to 1996, including Stupid Girl and Only Happy When It Rains. Follow-up Version 2.0 (1998) was very different to their debut album introducing more techno beats to their sound.  I remember getting to see them that summer and being a bit disappointed with their performance as they cut it short to be able to head off to another gig that they were doing the same weekend.  They did however return and I got to see them again for a second time when they came to Belfast seven months later playing at the Kings Hall.  

 Garbage’s third album Beautiful Garbage (2001)  failed to match the commercial success achieved by its predecessors.  Bleed Like Me (2005) was next before the band would go on a hiatus.  They ultimately reunited in 2011 and self-released 2012’s Not Your Kind of People to positive reviews.  Strange Little Birds (2016) was their most recent album.

Wednesday 5 August

All the albums featured here are compilation albums and we kick it off with some music from the USA – The Stooges, Iggy Pop and The Doors.

Gimme Danger is a 2016 American documentary film directed by Jim Jarmusch about the band the Stooges.  The soundtrack had songs selected by Jarmusch and Iggy Pop himself, focuses on tracks from The Stooges’ first three studio albums, along with a few songs by Iggy’s pre-Stooges bands The Iguanas Again and Again and Prime Movers Blues Band I’m a Man as well as the MC5’s classic Ramblin’ Rose.  It’s a great compilation and a good introduction to the band.

This lead nicely to Iggy Pop.  A Million in Prizes: The Anthology (2005) is a 2-disc greatest hits collection of his music. The title comes from the lyrics of Lust for Life.  Iggy played at Feile 93 and included here are unreleased live versions of TV Eye and Loose.  I have only had the pleasure of seeing Iggy live once.  He puts so much energy into his shows.

Going back to the 1960s for The Doors.  A band that has some many best of albums, I went for the only one that I have Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine which was their second compilation album from 1972 and the first following the death of singer Jim Morrison.  It was reissued for the first time in over 40 years as part of Record Store Day 2014 and was subsequently issued on CD in 2014 which is the copy I have.  It’s a great compilation for anybody that is just a casual fan of their work.

Switching back to the UK and three bands from the 1980s feature here –The Cult, The Psychedelic Furs and Public Image Limited.

Pure Cult The Singles 1984-1995 was released in 2000.  It is also a reissue of the 1993 compilation Pure Cult: for Rockers, Ravers, Lovers, and Sinners.  A great collection of songs from the band and a good introduction to them.

Heaven The Best of The Psychedelic Furs (2009) features some of their best known songs.  The title track is from one of their singles and it also includes the original version of Pretty in Pink instead of the one used for the John Hughes film of the same name from 1986.  A really great set of songs from the 1980s.

Finally last word goes to John Lyndon’s post Sex Pistols band, Public Image Limited (PIL). Rise: The Collection (2015) features 16 of their best known songs include the title Rise, This is not a Love Song and Public Image.  A really different band than Sex Pistols, creating an abrasive, bass-heavy sound that drew on dub, noise, progressive rock and disco.  It is a pretty good collection.

Thursday 6 August

Four bands featured here from the start of the new millennium to the most recent exciting Irish talent in the last couple of years.  JJ72 from Dublin formed in 1996 and released their eponymously titled debut album in 2000.  The album had hit singles Snow, October Swimmer, Long Way South and Oxygen.  A very exciting live band they also supported Muse and Manic Street Preachers on tour as well as doing their own headline shows.  2002 seen the release of I To Sky which was their last album.

The second album was a bit different from the first album and got good reviews but sold poorly.  After the band split, Mark Greaney went on to form Concerto For Constantine and I got to see them in 2008 when they supported Smashing Pumpkins.  As yet no album has been released by them.

Turn from Kells, County Meath formed in 1988 and after getting some of their early EPs and singles, I got their second album, Forward (2003).  Just when things were going well for them, they had a loyal fanbase here in Ireland, the band got dropped from their label and their bassist, Gavin Fox left to join Idlewild

Two Dublin bands doing well at the moment are Fontaines D.C. and The Murder Capital.

Fontaines D.C. are a post-punk band who formed in 2017.  Their debut album, Dogrel (2019) was released to widespread critical acclaim.  The D.C. at the end of their name stands for Dublin City as there is another band out of there with the same name.  A really great debut album, I was surprised to find that album number two was due to drop this year.  These guys have been hard at work between touring and writing another album.  A Hero’s Death (2020) was released at the end of July.  It took me a few listens to really enjoy it.  First time listening I thought its nothing like the first album but the more you listen to it grows on you.

The Murder Capital are another post-punk band who formed in 2015.  Their debut album, When I Have Fears (2019) you can tell that they were influenced by Joy Division and even Pixies.  It’s a great album and I really like it.  I think Fontaines D.C. have stolen the march on them but hopefully they won’t get comparisons with the Blur-Oasis rivalry from the 1990s.  Both bands are great and deserve the success.

Friday 7 August

The Frames are from Dublin and they formed in 1990 but I didn’t discover them for another few years yet when one of my work colleagues recommended them to me.  Work colleagues are great for recommending bands to listen to.

Three albums from the band that I own – Fitzcarraldo (1996), Dance the Devil (1999) and For the Birds (2001) three really great album and I first got to see them at the Witnness Festival during the early 2000s.  A great live band and Glenn Hansard is a very talented storyteller.  Glenn would also be a touring partner with Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam.  They make a great team live.

The Decemberists are an American indie band from Portland, Oregon and they formed in 2000.  My introduction to the band came from a friend who recommended The Crane Wife (2006) which was their fourth album.  The next album I have is The King is Dead (2011) which was their sixth album.  It was only after listening to all these albums that I realised that I missed one! 

This album is very much like REM and the influence is definitely there.  Three songs on the album – Don’t Carry It All, Calamity Song and Down by the Water feature REM guitarist Peter Buck.

The last album I bought by them and I also got to see them on tour for this album was What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World (2015).  The album builds on the success of the previous album.  They even had a day totally dedicated to them – January 20 was officially declared Decemberists Day to commemorate both their success and the release of the new album.  I made the trip down to Dublin to see them played at the iconic Vicar Street venue.





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.






After the disappointment of seeing Garbage at the Big Day Out in Galway the previous summer, they made their Belfast debut at the King’s Hall on 15/01/99. This time a more enjoyable performance compared to the rushed one in Galway. Support that night came from Moloko.

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Placebo came back for another visit to the Ulster Hall promoting their new second album. Support came from Idlewild who I got to see for the first time. Idlewild were no strangers to the Ulster Hall having supported Ash there the previous year but I must have missed them that time.

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Placebo were good, but I think Idlewild stole the show as they were brilliant. Not often do you get to see the support act upstage the headliners. So good were Idlewild that I went out and bought their album the next day.

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3 Colours Red played a fantastic gig at the Limelight on 17/02/99. The band were enjoying success with their single Beautiful Day which was their biggest hit. A great band who sadly broke up later in the year.

I was enjoying quite a lot of the Brit rock bands at that time and Terrorvision came along to the Empire on 12/04/99.

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The next two gigs were Belfast’s answer to the Heineken Green Energy festival in Dublin. Branded Guinness Live, there was a series of gigs over the May bank holiday weekend. I won tickets to see Reef at the Ulster Hall. They were brilliant and support came from A.

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The second gig was in Botantic Gardens which was headlined by Catatonia with support from The Cardigans. Both bands I was enjoying at the time. I also had a ticket to see Catatonia in Dublin and that was the first ticket that I had ever bought that went to waste as a friend pulled out at last minute and I didn’t want to travel on my own for it. At least I got to see them in Belfast.
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I got to see Stereophonics at the Ulster Hall on 06/05/19. This was after the bank holiday and not connected to the festival. Stereophonics had just released their second album. Me and my friends went back stage and we met the band afterwards getting tickets singed. We found out from them that they would be back in Ireland over the summer playing at Slane Castle supporting Robbie Williams. Wasn’t that keen for that one!!

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First trip south was another visit to the RDS by Bruce Springsteen on 25/05/99 this time with the E Street Band. This was the first time I had seen the E Street Band with Bruce and me and my friends were right down at the front for this one. We were right under big Clarence Clemons on the saxophone and we were giving him the you are not worthy salute. Big Clarence nodded to Bruce and pointed in our direction! Would love to have had a photo of that one! No mobiles back then.

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I will give Glastonbury a separate mention in the festivals section. Manic Street Preachers made their King’s Hall debut on 22/06/99. A warn up gig ahead of their headline slot at Glastonbury. Support came from Super Furry Animals who would also be appearing at Glastonbury too.

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Following a triumph slot at Glastonbury, Mercury Rev came over to Belfast on 29/6/99 to play an intimate gig the Limelight. This was one of my favourites ever shows there. They were amazing.

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In July, I had another two trips to Dublin. First up was Metallica back at the Point on 5/7/99 with Monster Magnet in support and then back down again on 16/7/99 for REM at Lansdowne Road.

November had me back in Dublin again for two gigs at the Olympia. The first was for Suede on 5/11/99. This was the first time I had ever seen Suede. A bit late to the party they put on a great show. Great live band.

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Whilst in Dublin I managed to get tickets for James on 29/11/99. James were fantastic live. Tim Booth is an incredible front man and so full of energy. They played lots of hits that night. Also, in the VIP section in the Olympia were Bono and The Edge from U2. Taking photos on mobile phones was a long way off at this stage!

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In a round about way I started off liking Oasis and couldn’t stand Blur, but I suddenly found that I was starting to like Blur more than Oasis! Think Song 2 did it for me, but it was Blur’s headline slot at Glastonbury in 1998 that won me over. This was branded the singles tour and they took to the stage the Waterfront in Belfast. A strange venue for Blur as I thought they should have played at the Ulster Hall.

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The last gigs of the year were all spent in London. This was my first time going to London for gigs and I was over to stay with my friend David who had just moved over. We took in two gigs at Wembley Arena to see James (12/12) and Stereophonics (13/12). The final gig was Ben Folds Five at the Royal Albert Hall (14/12). Royal Albert Hall was an amazing venue and our seats were right up at the top. Not great if you have vertigo!

1998 – festivals

I was never much of a festival goer missing all the Trips to Tipp in the 1990s.  Never made it to Reading until early 2000s and Glastonbury in 1999 was my first big festival.

I have no gig ticket for this one but my first festival experience was in Cornwall in England visiting friends in that part of the country.  The Bude Rock and Surf festival as it was called was quite a strange set up.  Basically it was a festival in a field with two stages right beside each other.

So when a band finished on one stage everyone just moved over to the next stage!  Trying to remember who all played but it was nobody big.  I think I saw Travis, Catatonia and Space.  Tried to Goggle the line up but no joy.

Had a trip to Galway on the Twelfth weekend for the Big Day Out at Castlegar Sports Ground.

Headlined up Pulp with support from Beastie Boys, Garbage, Ian Brown and Corner Shop.  This was a one day event.  Overall a mixed bag.  The crowd couldn’t get into Pulp who were playing mostly new stuff from This is Hardcore.  The crowd just wanted the hits from Different Class.

Equally disappointing were Garbage who I was most looking forward to seeing.  A very short set and I think it may have been something to do with them appearing at T in the Park in Scotland over that same weekend.  Ian Brown was awful.  Singing badly and dancing badly with good measure.  Just wasn’t the Stone Roses.

However the same can’t be said about the Beastie Boys.  They were amazing and made up for the other disappointments on the day.

Last festival of the year was at Slane Castle on 29/8/98.  Headliners were The Verve.

Support came from Finlay Quaye, Junkster, James, Robbie Williams (who  would return in 1999 to headline) and special guests Manic Street Preachers.

Nowhere near as good as REM in 1995, The Verve were quite poor on the day going through the motions.  The band broke up after that.  I enjoyed the Manics but they were in better form the following evening in Belfast.