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.





2002 – June to December

The second part of the blog takes in the second half of the year.  2002 shaped up to be a pretty busy year for gigs, so to make it a bit easier to read I decided to split 2002 three ways and keep the festivals on a separate page (4 festivals to cover this time!).

Ok, first up is the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I must admit that I am not their biggest fan but have seen them twice now.  The second gig will be covered at a later date.  Anyway, I was more into Faith No More than the Chili Peppers.  Missed a chance to see them in 1993 at Sunstroke.  That was the year they pulled out and Faith No More replaced them and missed them again the following year 1994 at same festival which I am told was one of their best gigs.

Red Hot Chilli PeppersLansdowne Road was the venue for their Dublin show for the 2002 tour.  Kenny and myself went down for this and we ended up in the south terrace which was probably behind where the rugby goal posts were.

Support came from New Order which I was excited to see.  Sadly they didn’t live up to my expectations and they were pretty awful.

The same can also be said for the Chili Peppers.  They were truly awful on the day.  Definitely the most phoned in performance I had seen.  1/10 for effort guys!  Sadly I would give them another chance but we will find out how they fared at later date.

Witnness 2002 is covered in the festivals section but one of the bands from that weekend ventured north a few days later to the Limelight.Rival Schools

Rival Schools were considered godfathers of the emerging emo scene that was coming through.  I caught their set at Witnness and they were a brilliant band to watch.

The gig in Limelight was great too.  They are a band I would love to see again.


The first Tennent’s Vital took place in September at Botanic Gardens.  Again I will cover this one as part of the festivals blog.

October was a pretty busy month for gigs.  First up was Queens of the Stone Age at the Ambassador Theatre.  Queens of the Stone Age

This was the first time I had seen the band on Irish soil after getting to see them at the Reading festival in 2000.  I think they were due to play Belfast in 2001 at the Limelight but pulled out.  No idea what the reason was.

A band at the peak of their powers, Songs for the Deaf was one of my favourite albums that year.  With guest vocals from Mark Lanegan and Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters taking a time out to drum on this album, you can guess that I am really looking forward to this gig.  To say you had seen Dave Grohl drum in two different bands would have been great.

Standing tickets were pretty hard to get so I settled for a sitting ticket.  A rarity but I done it before.

A fantastic gig, I was dripping in sweat and that was being in a seat.  I think pretty much anybody around me were headbanging like mad!  Sadly Dave wasn’t on board the tour for this one as he got the Foo Fighters back together and was going on the road with them.  Mark Lanegan would come on stage at several points when he was called upon for vocal duties.

Hundred Reasons returned to Belfast following their sell out show at the Limelight back in May.  This time they played at Mandela Hall with support coming from the remaining members from At The Drive In, who went on to form Sparta.

JJ72 made a return visit also to Belfast as part of the Queens Festival that autumn.  They were promoting their second album at the Limelight.

The last three gigs of the year all involved a trip down to Dublin.

Dave Grohl did come to Dublin this time but brought his own band with him!  This was the first Foo Fighters gig at the Point Theatre.  Foo FightersThey had just released One By One and this was the biggest venue at the time I had seen the band play.

A few days later I would be back in Dublin again to see Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.  A band becoming a firm favourite for me I first them at the Ambassador Theatre on the NME Brat Tour the year before. BRMC

Again another highlight from Witnness 2002 which I will go into a bit more detail in festivals.

They played at the Olympia Theatre which is one of my favourite Dublin venues and were awesome.

Manic Street Preachers brought their Forever Delayed tour to Dublin in December with support from Ian Brown. Manic Street Preachers

Last time I saw Ian Brown was the Big Day Out in Galway in 1998.  Still wasn’t any better this time round.

A tour with a difference as this was basically a Manic Street Preachers greatest hits setlist.  Kind of ticked all the boxes and played all the songs you wanted to hear with no encore.  Result!










The new year bring me over to London for the first of two NME gigs in the city at the iconic Astoria venue.

I was staying with friends in London that weekend and got them tickets for the second night which was the NME tour show.  This was the first time I had ever done the NME tour.

First night was done on my own.  I got to see And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead.

This amazing gig include support from the awesome Rocket From The Crypt and the then unknown band from New York, The Strokes.

And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead were amazing live.  A very riotus affair which resulted in a finale that saw the band literally giving away their gear to the crowd.  Saw someone walking off with bits of the drumkit. Unreal!

The following night was the main event, the NME tour finale had finally hit London.  For this year they picked their tips for the future by putting on your four very diverse and different bands.

The differences couldn’t be more obvious.  Starsailor and Alfie both described as indie bands, Amen from America were the most metal band on the bill and Irish trio JJ72 who were very much influenced by Joy Division.

It was an enjoyable gig.  You could feel the floor caving in when Amen hit the stage.  They were so loud.A few days later I would catch Amen again this time at the Limelight.

This gig was as equally loud as the Astoria one.

For this one I stayed more towards the back reluctant to be caught up in the moshpits at the front as it was getting a bit wild down there.

The Pixies were a band that I never got to see.  I remember telling one of my work colleagues that I was listening to Nirvana and he mentioned that he liked the Pixies and thought I would too.  I borrowed both Bossanova  and Doolittle and was blown away.  Sadly got into them too late and I think I did miss a gig at the Ulster Hall in the early 90s.

So Frank Black came to Dublin in February and I had to go to that one.

Post-Pixies, Frank Black has had a very successful solo career.  With this backing band, The Catholics they took to the Vicar Street venue in Dublin.  This was to become one of my favourite venues in Dublin.  It was such an intimate gig.

Never did I think I would hear some of the Pixies tunes that he did play that night.  I would eventually get to see The Pixies play when they reformed a few years later.

Following the success of the NME tour, JJ72 did a headline slot at the Olympia in February and then they did support for the Manic Street Preachers at Smithfield in Dublin in May.

For my 30th birthday, I had the never ending birthday with celebrations in both Belfast and London.  I made my first visit to Brixton Academy which was a venue I had always wanted to go to.

The Manic Street Preachers had just done a very short tour promoting their new album at the time Know Your Enemy following a visit to Cuba where they played for the first time.

Having seen Nirvana in 1992, I was intrigued with the idea that there would be a tribute band for them.

The Australian Nirvana came to the Limelight in April.

They put on a good show.  For many in the audience it might have been the closest they would get to hearing Nirvana live.

Don’t think they were as popular as the Australian Pink Floyd.

My friend Helen was dating a guy from Glasgow called Colin. She knew we would both immediately hit off with each other as he was big into music and going to see bands. Colin invited me over to Glasgow to catch Ash in the iconic Barrowlands.

This was an amazing venue.  The atmosphere was electric and the crowd were really up for it.  We couldn’t get to the front but when Ash hit the stage a huge tidal wave of bodies from the back was taking us in the direction of the front.  Definitely one of the best music venues I have ever been too.

I got to see metal legends Motorhead who played the Ulster Hall.

Was great to see them live.  They were loud, fast and amazing.  Was great to see them.

Also saw the Beta Band on the strength of only one song which was used in the High Fidelity movie.  They did a show at the Limelight.


Just before festival season, Witnness put on a promotional gig at the Empire showcasing Sparklehorse, Ed Harcourt and Gemma Hayes who would be playing Witnness during the summer.

I went to see And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead again for the first time in Belfast.

This was another fantastic gig by the band.  No instruments left this venue like their appearance at the Astoria.

The Empire was quite an amazing venue to see them.

The Strokes made their Belfast debut at the Limelight which was definitely not the most packed out gig I have been too.  I don’t know if anybody knew of it but it wasn’t sold out.  After this they got bigger and were heading to the larger venues.

I went to two festivals that summer which will be the subject of a separate blog, 2001 Festivals which will follow this one.

September 2001 was quite a dark month.  Following the aircraft attacks in America on 11 September many bands were pulling tours following the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon.  I had a ticket to see Radiohead at the Odyssey in Belfast which took place 3 days later.

I really thought this gig was going to get pulled.  It was hard to find out information on what was actually going to happen but the gig eventually went ahead.

Radiohead continued where they left off from the big top tour the year before.

They insisted on a blackout of any of the corporate sponsorship that was situated around the area which was also home to the Belfast Giants ice hockey team.

The month of October was quite busy from 1/10 to 4/10, there gigs in the space of those days.  Got to see Elbow at the Limelight who remembered there performance at Witnness from the summer.  This was the only time I have ever seen them and they went on to bigger venues after this.

A quick trip to Dublin two days later took me to the Ambassador Theatre which was situated at the top of O’Connell Street.  A really great venue, they hosted Mercury Rev. Was a good gig but not as good as the Limelight one in 1999.

No chance for a breather back to Belfast and another gig.  Shed Seven took to the stage in the Limelight.  Went along to see what they were like.  I quite liked some of their songs so wouldn’t say I was a huge fan.  What I remember from this gig was the guy at the front row who kept holding up their latest CD for lead singer, Ricky Witter to sign.  He was quite persistent that during the gig he eventually took the CD off him and signed it on stage!

Went to see Stereophonics play at the Odyssey for the first time.

Support came from Feeder who blew them away.  Stereophonics on the other hand were becoming very bland and boring.  This was the point that I started to go off them.  The third album really killed it for me and I never listened to them since.November was also a very busy month for gigs.

The Frames came to the Limelight at the start of the month.  It was great to see them in a really good venue.

The really long weekend too place at the end of the month.  Three gigs in a row.

First up was a new event that was introduced to St George’s Market in Belfast for the first time promoted by Orange, called Enjoy Music.  For £5 you got to see Embrace and two local bands Snow Patrol and Payola.  Quite a bargain.

Following that it was two night stint at the Empire which was becoming one of my favourite venues in Belfast.  Will have to do a wee poll sometime to see what other people think.

Anyway, David Kitt was first.  Was familiar with some of this stuff after seeing him at Witnness.  Apart from this gig I can’t remember anything else about it.

Was really excited to see Mark Lanegan for the first time.  The one Seattle band that I never got to see was his old band, Screaming Trees.  I got into them thanks to the Singles soundtrack for the Cameron Crowe romcom to the backdrop of the early Seattle scene.  Mark Lanegan has such an amazing voice.  You just stand in amazement listening to him.  He doesn’t do too much banter on stage more lets music do the talking.

This brings us to a close with the traditional December Christmas gigs by two of my favourite bands, Therapy? and Ash.

Therapy? done a show at Mandela Hall which I think was the first time they played their since their debut in the 90s.

The next two gigs were back to back gigs at the Ulster Hall by Ash.





This was the first time I had done back to back gigs with the same band.

Ash were ending the year on a high after the rebirth of the band following the release of Free All Angels.

I got a ticket for the first night and then a second night was put on and I went and bought another ticket.  Why not?

Both very memorable gigs and sadly this would be the last time that Ash would headline a show at this venue.  They would be back for other shows but this was definitely the end of the headline slots.  As always the Christmas gigs were a bit special and this was no exception.

Glastonbury 1999

If you were going to do one festival that year it was going to be this one….Glastonbury.

At the time one for the bucket list.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be at this festival.  Looking back now 20 years ago it seemed easier to get tickets.  A mere snip at £83 back then.   No need for photo id like you do now!

Glasto line up 99

The headline acts were announced well in advance so you would know who you were going to see.  Over the three days the main headliners were REM (Friday), Manic Street Preachers (Saturday) and Skunk Anansie (Sunday).

So tickets are purchased and flights booked.  Me and my friend David made our way to Glastonbury from London with his girlfriend at the time.  Felt like the spare wheel that weekend! We made our way down on the Thursday, checked in with tickets and got the all important gig timetable. Glastonbury 99 (2).JPG

The next step is the tricky bit.  Trying to find a decent spot to pitch your tent.  We actually did find a decent spot not that far from the Pyramid stage.  So we settled in for the night so far, so good.

Next morning it was time for the festival to start.  First port of call was the Pyramid stage. In fact most of the weekend was spent between that and the other stage.  The place was so huge it was nearly impossible to take in all the bands you wanted to see so we decided to stick to the two stages which were within a decent walking distant.

One thing that stuck me about Glastonbury was it wasn’t your average rock festival.  It seemed very family orientated and it had a very laid back vibe as well.

It all started at 11am.  First act on was ABBA tribute band Bjorn Again.  This was followed by sets by Ian Dury and then Bare Naked Ladies.

By the afternoon Blondie came on stage.  I actually made it all the way to the front for Bush.  When I came back to David and his girlfriend we had met up with a group from Glasgow who we hung about with for a while.  Whilst I don’t mind meeting up with people I don’t like missing any bands!  Got to hear Hole from the distance while we hung out with our Glasgow friends.

As REM were the headline act it was going to get busy so a quick trip to the other stage allowed me to get to see Pavement.  Took in a bit of Gomez before bolting back to the Pyramid stage.  By then it was getting really busy as REM were about to hit the stage.

An amazing performance, I think just as good as Slane a few years earlier.  Check out footage of REM live from Glastonbury.  It’s The End of The World As We Know It

Following this amazing performance we all stayed up for a while.  No idea what time to but was a good opportunity to wander around the site and take in everything.

So having survived day 1 it was now time for day 2.  A bit of controversary surrounding the Manics debut headline slot.  Nicky Wire once recalled in an interview that he wanted to bulldoze the place and build a by pass through it (1994) to the practical joke about having a private toilet.  Check out the article from the Guardian newspaper at the time Red rockers wage battle of portaloo

Billy Bragg was not impressed!

We saw Billy Bragg live for the first time and then the legend that is Joe Strummer.  I had just got into appreciating how good The Clash were and being too young at the time wouldn’t have got to see them.

I made my way down to the front again to see Ash.  It was pretty wild as everyone was bouncing around like crazy.  The atmosphere was great.  Nearly lost my hat at one stage.

Following that it was back round to the other stage to catch The Cardigans and Super Furry Animals.  The Furries were amazing.  After this it was round to the Pyramid stage to see the Manics.  By this stage the crowd was huge.  It was near impossible get anywhere near the front.

Six songs in and there was crowd trouble.  The band were playing Yes from The Holy Bible and nobody around me knew what song was.  I was bouncing around like mad and nearly got thumped as somebody objected to me having a good time!  David stood between me and the guy who seemed to be annoyed.  Anyway it became apparent that the crowd trouble at the front was due to the crowd surging forward.  The band stopped playing appealing for everyone to move back.

Survived day 2 only one more day to go!

Sunday started off with the London Community Gospel Choir followed by Christian rockers Delirious?  We got a bit of Al Green in the afternoon before switching over to the other stage to catch Feeder, then back to the main stage for a bit of Fun Lovin’ Criminals before nipping back to the other stage to see Mercury Rev.

By this stage the festival was coming to a climax or rather an anti-climax.  Which brings me to band that closed the main stage on the Sunday night…Skunk Anansie.  Didn’t think it would be a headline slot but hey Michael Eavis picks the headliners.  Were they the worst headliners? I don’t think they were the worst but considering what was out at the time why shouldn’t they have had a shot at it.

So that closed Glastonbury.  Only a matter of trying to get home after a sleepless last night.  Getting in was easy, getting out harder.  Every bus leaving was going everywhere but London.  By the time the London bus came it was like the fall of Saigon as every one threw their bags onto the bus trying to get onboard.  We finally hit the road but by the time we got to the airport we missed our flight to Dublin.  Ryanair managed to put us on the next available flight that night which meant we needed somewhere to stay in Dublin on Monday night before going home.

Funny enough on the second flight we shared the same plane as the President of Ireland (Uachtarán na hÉireann) Mary McAleese and her husband.  So even the President flew economy class back then!

Looking back on my first and only Glastonbury some great bands, great weather and a bit of drama getting home.  Think I will stick to watching it on BBC in future!

















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.

Garbage 99

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.

Placebo 99.JPG

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.

3 Colours Red 99

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.

Terrorvision 99

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.

Reef 99

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.


Green Day made their return to Belfast since 1991.  First time they played Belfast was at Richardson’s Social Club and they were staying overnight in the Holylands student area.

This time round they made it to the Ulster Hall promoting their new album Nimerod.  I was starting to like the band at this stage and this was one of my favourite albums from that year.  The gig was definitely my favourite Green Day show.

 I was a big Rage Against the Machine fan during the 90s and it came as no surprise that British band Senser came along with their blend of politics, rap and rock.  They came to the Limelight on 30/4/98.

Also part of 90s culture was The X Files.  Whilst not gig related, the next band Catatonia had a top 10 hit with Mulder and Scully.  This was my introduction to the band proper.

They played at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin over the May Bank holiday weekend as part of the Green Energy festival. 

Symposium made a return visit to the Limelight on 11/6/98 bringing follow Brit rockers A in support.

Fresh from supporting The Verve at Slane Castle (see 1998 Festivals), Manic Street Preachers made their debut Ulster Hall appearance on 30/8/98, the night that they achieved their first no.1 single, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next.

This was definitely my favourite Manics gig.  Kind of made me regret not getting into them earlier as they previously played Belfast at the Students Union numerous times.

One gig that I went to that year was to see The Levellers at the Ulster Hall.  It wasn’t a great turn out if I remember correctly.  Support came from the then unknown Snow Patrol.

The build up to Christmas was pretty busy that year and I don’t think buying presents was top of the agenda.  Therapy? had only one Irish show and it was in Dublin.

Me and my mate Paul hit the road for a return visit to the Olympia on 10/12/98.  This was the first time I saw Therapy? in Dublin.  Paul had seen them 4 years earlier at Dalymount Park as part of Sunstroke’94.

Drugstore came to the Limelight on 15/12/98.  They released a song called El Presidente with Thom Yorke from Radiohead doing guest vocals.  Sadly he wasn’t present at this gig.

I was in England on the weekend of 19/12/98 visiting friends and took in the opportunity to see Manic Street Preachers on their debut arena tour.  The venue was Westpoint Arena in Exeter.  Think I could best describe it as the English King’s Hall as it was a terrible venue.

This one doesn’t quite go down well as the Ulster Hall gig a few months earlier.  It was probably the first time I could tell the difference between the fans and casual fans.  Catatonia were meant to support but Cerys Matthews took ill resulting in the band having to cancel.

Back to home and the traditional Christmas gig!  Ash played at the Ulster Hall on 23/12/98.

Ash never disappointed.  Support came from Chicks and Idlewild. I have no recollection of Idlewild.   Might have been late getting down for the gig.