Thursday, 21 September 2017

In Concert - Favourite Gigs of Ireland's Music Community - Part 2

In Concert - Favourite Gigs of Ireland's Music Community - Part 2

I woke up the next morning after writing the first part of this post and realised that there were at LEAST three or four gigs from the eighties that I had omitted that really couldn't be omitted. So my plan to do the next post from the 90's onwards is being parked while I do a further return to the eighties.

The Smiths SFX, Dublin 18th May, 1984
I first saw The Smiths on TOTP performing This Charming Man and the next morning I bought the 12". It immediately felt like one of those seismic events. The cooler (and older) kids might have had Hand in Glove, and even seen them play the Freshers' Ball in the JCR in Trinity the year before but for most of us this was going to be the first chance to see The Smiths. They had released What Difference Does it Make? and their debut album by the time the gig came around and the crowd was well up for it.
The crowd was one of the most mixed I had ever seen, with other dark clad Bunnymen fans like myself, ageing hippies, slightly less ageing punks and other, less defined groups of people. But many, many had flowers in their hair, or pockets, or hands. Indeed gardens on the routes to the SFX had been stripped of all sorts of plant life. A Smiths crowd were not a gardeners best friend.
It was a celebration.
Marr seemed like a member of a sixties band in shades and Byrds fringe but Morrissey was Morrissey, in maternity shirt and with a bouquet in his back pocket.
At one point Morrissey threw his shirt into the audience. My friend caught it but by the time he landed all that was left was a sleeve, which I had for years before it disappeared. I was recently part of a Facebook discussion of gigs in the SFX and someone shared the picture above, another part of the instant jigsaw that Morrissey's shirt became.

Tom Waits, Olympia Theatre Dublin, Nov 15-17th, 1987
Swordfishtrombones was one of those albums that changed my life. I had seen Tom Waits on The Late, Late Show a few years before and was aware of The Piano Has Been Drinking, particularly the live version which had been recorded in The Olympia and was played regularly enough on the radio.
But when I saw him on The Tube, in the brilliant video for In The Neighbourhood and performing Frank's Wild Years at a pool table interest was translated into obsession. I got some money when I turned eighteen and a whole load of it was spent on the whole Tom Waits back catalogue in Freebird Records. So I was pretty psyched when I heard he was coming to Dublin for three nights.
I went to two of these three gigs and I just remember after the second night I went, wishing I'd bought tickets for all three. From Waits emerging in a white suit after an intermission and playing I Wish I was In New Orleans to Ralph Carney playing two saxophones simultaneously these shows were filled with high octane theatricality, patter, incredible musicianship and songs - what songs - with a different setlist each night... I remember thinking as I emerged onto Dame Street that I would never see another gig quite like it. And I haven't.

That Petrol Emotions / The Young Gods, Town and Country Club, London 1988
I saw that Petrol Emotion supporting Echo and the Bunnymen in the SFX, shortly after the release of their rather excellent Keen single (if memory serves me right). Perhaps they had even released V2. The gig was slightly spoiled by a bunch of people who kept shouting for Teenage Kicks. Their decision to cover Pere Ubu's Non Alignment Pact showed that the Petrols were more interested in experimenting than in repeating their pasts...
By the time I went to see them in The Town and Country Club in 1988 they were on to their third album and there was a sense that they were about to finally get the commercial acclaim their music merited. Their confidence was reflected in their choice of support band. The Young Gods made an absolutely huge sound and the mix in the room was absolutely pristine. I remember us all commenting on it after the first song. They were so good, and so loud, that the question of how any band could follow it was in the minds of many.
But the question didn't last long after The Petrols emerged. This was a celebration of all that is good in live rock music. Confrontational, loud, fun, danceable, boundary crossing, uncool, totally cool - it really seemed like they had an unstoppable momentum - the breakthrough never really came but the memories remain. This was a fantastic night and it is one that I can revisit, as it was recorded for posterity...

The Pogues, The Olympic Ballroom, 19th December 1985
This is here not just because of the gig but because of the whole day. A group of us had planned to meet in The Buttery Bar in Trinity to start the days drinking early. (It was a Pogues gig after all!) For some reason the Buttery was closed and a few of us decided we would venture elsewhere to get some flagons. As these were the days before mobile phones there was some doubt as to whether we would meet up with the rest of our fiesta - a fiesta of Pogues fans would be the proper collective pronoun, yes?)
We did, we got drunk, we got sick, we got drunk again, we went to the gig where all of us, apart from one who 'slept' through the gig, went absolutely manic and sweated out all the alcohol and other liquid more quickly than it could be replenished.
This was punk rock, retooled for the mid-eighties and relevant to a generation who were tired of the stultifying, claustrophobic idea of Irishness that had been stuffed down our throats. The Pogues were both the embodiment and the explosion of those cliches.
And the songs were things of wonder. A Pair of Brown Eyes, The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn .. The Old Main Drag!

The Golden Horde and A House - St Patricks Park, Dublin  June 1986
I couldn't leave the eighties without a mention for the phenomenon that was The Lark in The Park, a series of free outdoor gigs in parks around Dublin and elsewhere run under the auspices of RTE2. I went to a number in Blackrock, Raheny and possibly elsewhere but this was the best...
I'm not even 100% sure that this was an official RTE2 event but it was brilliant. (I think it my have been connected to the Dublin Street Carnival -yes, the internet tells me it was, and that the pictured ep was in fact a promo for the event!)  The Horde were in their earlier, funnier incarnation with Bernie and Des doing some great simultaneous jumping, go-go girls in cages and fun, fun fun.
A House were more serious but still fun, and had some of the best songs, and song titles, in the rock handbook. Kick the girls up the mountains again, Jesus.
All this, sun, shades, six packs and sandwiches. Hard to beat.

Enough bathing in the warm waters of nostalgia... If you've enjoyed this you'll find far more reminiscences (of a higher quality) in In Concert, the book which inspired these posts, which is available  from the Hope Collective for €15 including P&P. All moneys raised go towards the Irish Red Cross. https://hopecollectiveireland.com/category/in-concert/

Next time out - the nineties and beyond...


  1. Love your reminiscences about The Smiths gig and Morissey's shirt. Takes me back to the days when I saw them in Nottingham in the mid '80s. It may well have been the same tour...

    1. Good times Jacqui, when the world was young - or we were...

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Colin, I remember one particular gig which was, I think, in Sides nightclub. I was one of an audience closer to single figures than three figures and it was just before Christmas. Smiley Bolger stood up after the gig to say that if anyone wanted to buy the band a drink they would appreciate it. (Clearly, they weren't going to be buying too much from the proceeds of the gig..)
      I remember the first time I saw them I felt that they were a mix of Television and The Velvets, with Stephen and Stan as Richard and Tom and Bernard as Maureen Tucker... I am not great at recalling detail, the memories are moments floating free, a song, a guitar riff, the sense that this was just better than I had any right to expect... I remember tracking down Big Star /Alex Chilton and Richard and Linda Thompson's magnificent I Want to See The Bright Lights Tonight because they were mentioned during or after concerts. I remember I would see people in town and think "Where do I know him from?" and realise it was from Stars' gigs. The regular requests for Light's of Tetouan. The palpable frustration at some gigs firing even greater performances.....