Peppers and Pixies hit the spot in Phoenix Park gig

 

Is this déjà vu, or have we been here before? Like a suntanned version of Father Christmas, the Red Hot Chili Peppers seem to come here every summer, bringing joy, goodwill and a little bit of sunshine.

We just can't get enough of this funky Californian quartet. Last year, Slane. The year before, Lansdowne Road. The year before that, supporting some Irish band in Slane. This year it's the Phoenix Park, and 110,000 came to see them on Saturday, even though we pretty much knew what to expect from these reliable old warhorses.

Some of us were there to see Pixies, the Boston band who recently re-formed, and who have redefined the meaning of "back by popular demand". When they came on before the main attraction, you could feel the shiver of excitement rustling through the treeline.

Up 'til then, the concert had been a fairly unremarkable, laid back affair.

British dance duo, Groove Armada, brought their fleet of funked-up musicians, singers and rappers, and delivered some afternoon dance delight.

Tom Findlay and Andy Cato have moved up a notch from their chilled-out roots, and though they may not be as mashed as Basement Jaxx, the breezy beats of Superstylin', Easy, At The River and I See You Baby threaten to get some hips swinging dangerously.

Quick - call security! The Thrills have it in the bag - you can tell from the reaction the Blackrock boys get when they strut onstage like those super-confident sixth years you envied in school when you were just a third-year nobody.

With effortless cool, the quintet surfed straight into Big Sur, and the crowd stayed level with them through Your Love Is Like Las Vegas, 'Til The Tide Creeps In, Say It Ain't So, Old Friends, New Lovers, One Horse Town, Don't Steal Our Sun and Santa Cruz.

Singer Conor sported a rock-star beard and drawl, while guitarists Daniel and Pádraic leaped into the crowd (leaving expensive guitars and shoes safely onstage).

Pixies stole the show without even breaking a sweat, ripping into Bone Machine and pulling us all into a twisted time-warp. It wasn't just the shock of seeing Black Francis (now Frank Black), Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and Dave Lovering onstage together after more than a decade, it was the gobsmacking realisation that they were even better than you remembered; older, wiser, larger, louder, harder and completely aware of their iconic status.

Are they back in it for the money? Hell yeah, and they're worth every penny. Tunes such as Gigantic, Velouria, Where Is My Mind, Debaser and Here Comes Your Man have grown too, and even the teenagers sing along, well aware of Pixies' awesome legacy. The comeback of the century - so far.

It was a different kind of flashback when the Red Hot Chili Peppers took the stage at around 8.15 p.m. Everyone knows the drill by now: the Chilis will play the hits, singer Anthony Kiedis will bounce up and down, John Frusciante will coyly display his stripped-down guitar genius, and Flea will tell us that Ireland is his favourite place.

They performed lean, razor-sharp renditions of Can't Stop, Around The World, By The Way, Otherside and Universally Speaking, while the blue evening sky smiled down on Dublin.

A measure of how mainstream they've become came when they did a cover of dreadful 1970s soft-rock tune, Brandy (by Looking Glass) - the scary thing was, it suited them perfectly. They also nodded towards their true influences with a snatch of Joy Division's Transmission and a tune by an obscure LA punk band, 45 Groove.

The Chilis, though, have moved away from their hard funk-punk roots and into softer, pop-rock textures, breaking through the velvet curtain into megastar status.

Tracks from their two most recent, multi-million selling albums were the real sweetmeats here, particularly Parallel Universe, Scar Tissue, Californication and Get On Top, but the encore was reserved for their staple oldies, Under The Bridge and Give It Away.

Flea could have played free-form jazz trumpet, while Frusciante fiddled with the effects pedals - in fact, they did - and the crowd would still have gone wild.

But the Peppers gave 'em what they wanted, with a little added spice, and though they were soundly upstaged by Pixies, they still sent the crowd home happy for another year.