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.

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!