In the absence of Oxegen to draw the big names in for exclusive Irish performances this summer, the third of the Phoenix Park series of concerts offers a veritable mini-festival of all day entertainment – the big guns Florence & The Machine and Snow Patrol, with a strong supporting cast. Granted, the 45,000 people who snapped up tickets as the gig sold out in minutes probably had an entirely different vision of their required attire for their July night out in the park – shorts and sandals are but a distant ideal, and the raincoats and wellies are out in force. Irish music fans are no strangers to a bit of mud – and tonight they quite literally get stuck in, learning the fine art of how to carry a tray of pints whilst wading through it, with some more enthusiastic revellers even submerging themselves face-first in it. Each to their own.
Here We Go Magic and Bressie play out their sets as the site begins to fill up, meaning there’s a decent sized crowd to greet The Temper Trap. A brief set featuring the best of their 2009 debut Conditions – ‘Fader’ is an early highlight – and recently released eponymous follow-up The Temper Trap, front-man Doug Mandaji sums it up succinctly with his farewell – “we’ve just got one song left for you Ireland, and I think you all know what it is.” The unmistakable opening riff that has become synonymous with so many advertisements and TV & film moments rings out over the Phoenix Park, the incomparable ‘Sweet Disposition’ instantly lifts the atmosphere and sets the tone for what’s to come.
Florence & The Machine have grown accustomed to playing before capacity Irish crowds, from the 60 second sell-outs of her early Olympia performances in support of the exquisite debut Lungs to earlier this year filling the O2 off the back of follow-up Ceremonials. Tonight sees her in the great wide open and it’s a suitably grandiose start with the duo of ‘Only If For A Night’ and ‘What The Water Gave Me’, her eight-strong backing contingent executing the dramatic sound to compliment her vocals to perfection. Dipping into her back catalogue, ‘Cosmic Love’ and ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’ somewhat underwhelm – she struggles under the might of her own music, as the hard work of the big choruses which make the songs so epic on record are left to the trio of backing singers, with Florence herself taking it down an octave and meandering with the melody, confusing the sing-along enthusiasts. Overall, the set-list is a let-down – many of the much-revered tracks of Lungs have been retired to make way for the newer songs, which in truth do a much better job of wowing as album tracks than in a live setting. There’s no ‘Drumming Song’, ‘Kiss With A Fist’ and most notably ‘You’ve Got The Love’. However, when she’s good she’s very good – ‘Dog Days Are Over’ and ‘Shake It Out’ encourage genuine euphoric reactions. Not her best day at work in the Irish office, but enough to make sure that the Phoenix Park is suitably pumped up for the arrival of Snow Patrol.
The classic case of a love-them-or-loathe-them act, Snow Patrol frequently divide opinions – their fans on the point of obsessive, music purists dismissive, with a lot of passive space in between. Tonight, they prove themselves as a wholly enjoyable and engaging live act – their individual albums may not set the world alight, but when the best of their offerings are assembled together to form a 90 minute live set, the result verges on spectacular. Anthem after anthem, the audience participation which they inspire is goosebump-inducing – from Final Straw’s ‘Chocolate’ to Eyes Open’s ‘You’re All I Have’ to A Hundred Million Suns’ ‘Take Back The City’, right up to the pick of most recent album Fallen Empires, ‘This Isn’t Everything You Are’. Their power-duo of trademark emotive indie-rock acclamations, ‘Run’ and ‘Chasing Cars’ are played in near succession – summed up excellently by a Corkonian within earshot who declares audibly “I feel like we’re in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy’.
As darkness descends the full scale of their accompanying visuals can be appreciated – most notably at the climax to ‘Open Your Eyes’. Gary Lightbody is visibly moved by the reception throughout, and as the band take to the stage for the encore he declares that they’ve always loved playing in Ireland, but tonight has topped it all. He pays tribute to the band’s families lining the front row, before calling his father onstage for Fallen Empires’ curiously titled acoustic reflection ‘Lifening’. A storming performance of ‘Just Say Yes’ draws the evening to a close, “thank you all for the night of our lives” are the parting words of Lightbody – and for many of the Snow Patrol faithful, the feeling must have been mutual.
Photos: Luis Faustino [nggallery id=614]