Slane back with a bang as Foo Fighters wow 60,000

Contentious village politics and traffic delays aside, Slane Castle concert returns in style

Up to 14,000 hipster-ish people may have been wallowing in electro music bliss at Forbidden Fruit in the urban setting of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, but 50kms up the road in rural Co Meath, over 60,000 people rocked their sodden socks off on Saturday.

Not for the first time in Slane Castle’s history as one of the best open-air venues in the world it rained so consistently that the clothes accessory du jour was a garish rainproof plastic poncho.

It has been a tough year for owner/overseer of Slane, Henry Mountcharles, yet he seems to have put his health scare behind him, and he strolled about the nominally titled VIP area stopping more often than we can recall for photo opportunities with anyone who requests it.

Back after a year’s break (there were two concerts in 2013 - Bon Jovi and Eminem), there were initial doubts as to the pulling power of American rock act, Foo Fighters, but a ticket-spend sprint towards the end pulled the numbers up to over 60,000.


And a reasonably well behaved 60,000-plus, at that.

Gardaí reported minimum disruption, although some village residents complained strongly about gates outside their homes being blocked, making it impossible for them to leave; and there was the usual issue of delays for departing traffic post-concert.

Cavan tykes The Strypes kicked off proceedings with a sprightly set as the natural amphitheatre started to fill. This noted, their music - tight-knit 60s rhythm'n'blues with a progressive Arctic Monkeys twist - was lost in a venue this size.

Northern Ireland’s Ash give the occasion serious attention as they rattled through their very fine new album, Kablammo!, and songs from their impressive back catalogue.

As complementary support acts go you couldn’t get much better - and they concluded their set with a cover of The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks, which was the first song of the day to get the crowd shaking a leg and an arm for all the right reasons.

Ash have played Slane Castle before (as support to U2, in 2001), but Ireland's latest music success story hasn't. Introduced by a selection of classic soul songs - and with the venue really filling up by 4.30pm - Hozier delivered a rousing set, replicating his debut album with personality and panache.

It isn’t usual that just a singer, a song, and an acoustic guitar can focus the attention of over 60,000 people, but that’s exactly what Hozier did with a tingling, solo version of Cherry Wine. We predict the announcement of a pre-Christmas 3Arena show shortly.

Following a perfunctory set from UK band, Kaiser Chiefs, headliners Foo Fighters got the festival spirit rolling with Everlong, and then Monkey Wrench, and they continued - relentlessly and resiliently, not always in a good way - with a lengthy set that nonetheless displayed high octane levels of melodic, guitar-driven rock’n’roll.

A cover of Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak only copper-fastened the band’s crowd-pleasing appeal.

Compared to the multi-stage, cutting-edge music at Forbidden Fruit, the one stage, incremental line-up format of Slane Castle concerts may seem out of synch with the times, but on the evidence of Saturday’s event, this matters very, very little.

Are Slane Castle concerts back with a bang? Big time.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture