Slane 2015 Review – Foo Fighters, Kaiser Chiefs, Hozier and Ash
It is an event engraved deep in the musical tradition of Ireland. There isn’t a frown in sight as all trek together to the site. Spilling onto the hill glee is immediately sensed as laughter, sounds of praise for The Strypes and general chat is heard. Everyone knows that the night ahead will leave us drenched and worn out – but above all it will leave us in a state of utter merriment.
Filling gig-goers ears with splendid and welcomed tunes, Ash exude a feel-good vibe, meeting and soaring above every precedented Slane bar. Nothing less could’ve been expected from this golden group.
An overwhelming positivity transmits through the field during ‘Shining Light’ as groups kick back with beers on the satisfyingly dry grass, looking on at those rocking out at the feet of this dazzling support. Lead singer Tim Wheeler dedicates this to Dave Grohl – a gleaming ode to the man of the night. Ash here boast a setlist nothing short of wonderful. A delightful addition comes in the form of an instrumentally glowing Teenage Kicks cover – putting smiles on an endless number of faces. Their own music of course too comes as a great joy – a statement best represented by the exclaims of “Yes!” that can be heard as they dive into their final song ‘Burn Baby Burn’.
Theirs is a sound that has been mastered over the years, yet remains fresh and energising. Indeed they are already a band that have earned many fans in their time, however this occasion will undoubtedly ensure a strengthening of adoration.
The latest national treasure that goes by the name of Andrew Hozier Byrne ambles onstage with his ensemble. Individuals rush past to get up close. At this stage most take to their feet, eagerly anticipating the masterful performance to follow. The always gracious musician expresses his appreciation, ensuring us that we cannot fathom just “how good it is to be home. Genuinely”. Yet of course he is much more than amiable, exhibiting other-worldly talent as himself and the band blast out hit after hit. It is hard to zone in on just a few highlights, considering Mr. Hozier Byrne’s back-catalogue of glory. The audience chant along to ‘Jackie and Wilson’, embracing the guitar’s rhythm and groove that accompanies so much of his music. Beams and belts result from ‘Someone New’ and arms wave out as we absorb the soul-cleansing ‘From Eden’.
This concert is a far cry from the majorly intimate Olympia gig months ago. Yet with his songs of substance and the immense sound penetrating through the speakers, Hozier holds up as an artist that can electrify and jolt individuals just as powerfully outdoors.
‘Take Me To Church’ here at Slane unravels as a historic moment. We’ve all heard it repeatedly, yet the buzz is still unbelievably tremendous all this time later. Beers spill and vocal chords vibrate at maximum. We roar out with open arms, engrossed in the world of this legend.
Following the brooding intensity of ‘man of the moment’ Hozier, Kaiser Chiefs are an altogether different proposition to the Wicklow native. Former kings of the festival season circa 2006, the band have had a topsy-turvy last few years. Having won the hearts of many with their first two releases in 2004 and 2007 accompanied by some brilliant high-energy live shows, interest in the band began to wane towards the end of the decade and subsequent releases were met with dwindling interest. When drummer Nick Hodgson (who also doubled up as the band’s main songwriter) left in 2012, it seemed like the writing was on the wall for the band, and a slow descent into indie obscurity awaited, joining bands such as Hard Fi, Klaxons and The Futureheads on the noughties indie-boom scrapheap. However, frontman Ricky Wilson’s surprise appointment on BBC’s The Voice brought Kaiser Chiefs back into the mainstream spotlight, and resurrected the band’s fortunes in a way that only a primetime TV slot can, culminating in the release of last year’s impressive number one album Education, Education, Education and War.
Their inclusion on the Slane bill proves to be a shrewd booking. While their music is often somewhat lacking in emotional substance, they serve as the perfect type of ‘festival band’ for such a slot with an energetic stage presence and enough familiar hits to keep the huge crowd entertained. Opening their set in rousing fashion with ‘Every Day I Love You Less and Less’ and ‘Everything is Average Nowadays’ (they do have a way with witty song titles), the crowd are onside from the off. Underrated 2009 single ‘Never Miss a Beat’ also has a wonderful call and response quality that’s tailor made for large outdoor audiences. However, the band can also do ‘serious’ to counteract their fun brand of indie pop with ‘Modern Way’ and ‘Coming Home’ exhibiting a different side to their music and personalities. Despite the onslaught of some terrible weather, the hits just keep on coming through a high octane set which helps take the crowd’s collective minds off the awful conditions. ‘Ruby’ and ‘I Predict a Riot’ still retain their crowd-pleasing qualities after a decade of performances, and a cover of The Who’s ‘Pinball Wizard’ is an unexpected treat. Closing their set with the big dumb rock anthem that is ‘Oh My God’, the Chiefs depart the stage knowing they did exactly what they came to do: play the hits, inspire some mass singalongs and get the crowd in high spirits for the main event. Job done.
Having played support to the Red Hot Chili Peppers at their now-legendary 2003 Slane show, Foo Fighters are no strangers to the County Meath venue, and with a further four albums under their belts since that event, the band have gradually grown into the stadium-headline stars they always longed to be. Huge outdoor shows are standard practice for Dave Grohl and co. these days so the only surprise with their booking as Slane headliners is that it didn’t happen sooner, especially given the fact they have since headlined the Oxegen festival not once, but twice. Emerging onstage to a hero’s welcome, the opening notes of fan favourite ‘Everlong’ set the tone for a night of pulsating rock n’ roll. Huge anthems are not in short supply with ‘Monkey Wrench’ and ‘Learn To Fly’ echoing right to the back of the huge outdoor amphitheatre. Last year’s single ‘Something From Nothing’ gets an early airing, complete with its Stevie Wonder-style clavinet solo. Starting as a sparse yet intense strum, it grows into an angry roaring rock beast and proves that despite being over 20 years in the rock game, Dave Grohl can still produce moments of brilliance. The heavy metal style outro neatly segues into the ‘Stairway to Heaven’-style opening notes of ‘The Pretender’. The quintessential Foo Fighters song, melodic one minute, bone-crushingly heavy the next, it exhibits Grohl’s strength as a rock vocalist, his voice growing from a soft lullaby into an angry howl in a matter of mere seconds. ‘Arlandia’ from 2011’s Wasting Light completes a relentlessly heavy opening of the show before the band pause for breath with a stripped down rendition of ‘Big Me’.
Few bands have the profile, reputation, and back catalogue to headline a venue of this size and splendour, and looking at the Foo Fighters setlist, it’s clear that they are now firmly in the upper echelons of live rock n’ roll bands. While some superstar acts may turn in the odd phoned-in performance (*cough, Kings of Leon*), there really is no such thing as a half-hearted Foo Fighters show. The passion and intensity of these songs simply leave no room for anything other than full-throttle. Despite being over 12 years old, you get the feeling that ‘Times like These’ is one of those songs that will simply never date, and ‘My Hero’, tonight played in acoustic fashion, still garners a huge response despite being one of the oldest songs in their back catalogue. The band also throw in some covers, with Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jailbreak’ going down a storm for obvious reasons followed by an excellent rendition of the Queen/David Bowie classic ‘Under Pressure’.
The now-iconic opening bars of ‘All My Life’ receives one of the loudest reactions of the night. The song that propelled the Foo Fighters into the big leagues back in 2002 is still one of their most thrilling in a live setting and it’s hard to find anyone in the crowd not roaring along. The anthemic ‘Best of You’ meanwhile, is their most stadium friendly moment, and it fits the vast setting perfectly. Though as is the case with many of tonight’s bigger songs, it is stretched out far longer than necessary. That the band choose to end their set with a cover of ACDC’s ‘Let There Be Rock’ rather than one of their own compositions is a disappointment, one of few missteps in an otherwise excellent show.
Given the quality of all the acts’ performances today, the one major drawback is the Irish May weather. With the initial drops of rain during Hozier’s set developing into a relentless downpour that never really lets up for the rest of the evening, it may result in the show not being as fondly recalled as previous events which just proves that Irish outdoor events are always at the mercy of the weather conditions. Despite the miserable conditions, Foo Fighters consolidated their position at rocks top table with a greatest hits set that will live long in the memory of those in attendance. Bring on Slane 2016.