12 years ago I attended one of the best gigs I have ever been to. Red Hot Chili Peppers at Slane Castle, arguably the last time Slane, and the band for that matter, held their prowess for which they were so revered. On that day, Dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters provided support, riding high on their One By One tour. Who better then to bring back the old Slane, the real Slane than the very same band. This weekend, Slane was born again.
I feel a heads up is necessary here – I’m not going to talk about the crowd or the event management, at least not a lot anyway. There are stories from those avenues but I’ll save them for another piece – I don’t want to get bogged down in it. We arrived late, as is Slane tradition, and unfortunately missed out on The Strypes and Ash. I have seen both live however and can only presume they fit the bill well, nice and upbeat for the last few bits of sun on the day. Next up was Hozier (now and forever known as Hozier-daddy. Thanks Mr Grohl!). I was quite keen to see what Wicklow’s finest could do with Slane, unfortunately it wasn’t perfect.
Let me explain. I’m a fan of the guy, not a massive fan of his music but I like it enough. To me though, he was just a little too mellow for the day that was in it. Maybe a different lineup, or indeed June or July early evening sun, would suit him far better. Still, from a quality perspective he was right up there. As we’re the Kaiser Chiefs who I’ll admit surprised me. I’m certainly nowhere near a fan of there’s but as a proper warm up, pre show entertainment, they were great.
But none of that is what we came for, no. Dave Grohl is the nicest guy in the rock music business. Fact. He’s just so damn decent, and musically the Foo Fighters can be relied on to be always interesting. All of this, plus the quality of the songs, leads to ones attention being acutely focused on every onstage detail at all times. Opening with a triple whammy of “Everlong”, “Monkey Wrench” and “Learn To Fly”, Grohl and co. were clearly up for the long haul. There’s a great energy that emanates from the stage during a Foos gig and when you’re standing in the pouring rain, let me tell you it is welcome. The Foo Fighters are advocates of real rock and roll and don’t they do it better than most. Slane has been losing a lot of its gargantuan regality in recent years, with acts like The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi and Eminem seeming like obvious offerings for the 80,000+ capacity venue; but the Foos may have just had a considerable hand in bringing some life back to the event.
Standing there in the mud, the weather was the only differentiation I could make between this gig and my first trip back in ’03, just after U2 had owned the venue for a week. The Chilis were at the height of their power and the gig went down as one of the greats. Since then there has been the Madonna debacle, a cancelled then finally fulfilled Eminem show and some other big but past it acts in between. Now comes 2015 and; well, welcome back Slane. It was fitting that we were treated to their interpretation of Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak” during the set, given that it was Lizzy who played the first Slane gig way back when. This felt like the return of rock and, after a magic acoustic set of “My Hero” and “Times Like These”, we were sent home to the sound of AC/DC’s “Let There Be Rock”, what more could you ask for.
As per usual the standouts, as they tend to be, were the seminal “Best Of You” and the singer swapping “Cold Day In The Sun” which finds Dave Grohl relinquish vocal duty to drummer Taylor Hawkins (though if memory serves when I last saw them perform this track the two actually swapped instruments, if I’m right then it’s a bad change if you ask me). Given that Grohl formed the group as a one man band project and added musicians after making the first album, it is a testament that they seem like one of the closest knit groups you could find, in spite of the odd origins. Sure, they’ve had some spats, but who hasn’t?
Like I said in the beginning, I had some audience related issues at Slane but these are Irish societal problems, not Slane ones. Setting them aside, this was an immense night of music for a rocker and hopefully a bar has been set for this venue that has now provided me two of my favourite gigs. I’m all up for Eminem or Kings Of Leon in the right setting, but let’s get back to the Slane we all know, the one that is revered worldwide. More of the same please really, I guess.