Goes without saying really - like them or loath them, there's no denying that U2 put on a good show.
U2 deliver a 22-song set in three parts, including ‘The Joshua Tree’ in its entirety and two hit-laden sections, commencing with the opening salvo of Sunday Bloody Sunday, New Year’s Day, Bad and Pride (In The Name Of Love).
Not many acts can lay claim to four such well-known songs that they can effectively use as warm up material, but for U2 such luxuries exist, so why not use them?
It’s easy to see why ‘The Joshua Tree’ broke America for U2. The first four songs are stellar (Where The Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, With Or Without You, Bullet The Blue Sky), and still resonate with the power they did upon their original release.
Anton Corbjin’s stunning barren desert landscape visuals for Where The Streets Have No Name are a feast for the eyes.
Arguably the finest guitarist of her generation, Lizzie Fitzpatrick is also fast becoming one of the most captivating front people in the Irish music scene as a whole. Fitzpatrick headbangs and crowd surfs and crowd solos her way through the set.
Fitzpatrick also has an impressive vocal weapon – a sustain technique – which allows her to utilise her voice as if it was a synthesizer. All of these things combine to make Fitzpatrick a formidable presence on (and off) stage.
Where some bands struggle with line-up changes Bitch Falcon seem to go from strength to strength, having previously gone from a four-piece to a three-piece. More recently, their original bassist left to be replaced by Cork’s finest son Barry O’Sullivan – like a duck to the proverbial, O’Sullivan has somehow managed to make Bitch Falcon even heavier thanks to the way he attacks the bass.
His rock-solid performances allow for Fitzpatrick to push herself further and further onstage, as evidenced by the crowd surfing guitar solo during the animalistic Syncope.
Is there more electrifying up-and-coming act in Ireland than Rusangano Family right now?
The Choice Music Prize winners offer firm suggestions that the answer is “no” with a near pitch-perfect set in the Bulmers Live tent late on Monday evening.
A year or more on from their seismic debut Let the Dead Bury the Dead, Rusangano prove once more they are in the rare category of Irish acts to fully deserve the hype. In the intimate, almost cramped confines of the tent, their repeated demands for “energy!” from the crowd are paid back in full. Tracks like Lights On and Heathrow are as pyrotechnic as ever.
New single I Know You Know suggests the streak isn’t coming to an end, either. Towards the end, the crowd are told to grab any spare pieces of clothing, and swing them in the air, the front of the venue transformed into a maelstrom once again.
MCs GodKnows and MurLi have more than enough sturm und drang in their shtick to let the room truly get bopping, so much so that GodKnows puts his back out in the middle of the set’s closer, finally stumbling to his feet to acknowledge the adulation. Let’s hope he recovers. They know what it’s about, them boys.
Led by Oisin Leahy Furlong, Thumper snarl through frantic swirls of trashy yet melodic rock such as The Loser which at times echoes the carefree malaise of early Super Furry Animals, with perky vibes arm-wrestling against a barrage of feedback and angular guitar solos.
When Oisin Leahy Furlong leaps into the crowd repeatedly smashing his guitar against Whelan’s floor before throwing it through the crowd into the drum kit, injuring himself in the process.
He barrel rolls onto the stage and continues the song with gusto before limping off to rapturous applause. You can’t help but feel that this is exactly what the world needs now. Thumper will leave most bands feeling inadequate and nobody will want to go on after them.
Irish duo Le Boom didn’t disappoint with their high-energy set in the Irish tent. The duo are never still on stage, bouncing constantly along to the high tempo of beats and loops that they are creating.
Drummer Aimie’s passion onstage is a joy to behold, as is singer and multi-instrumentalist Chris’, and it doesn’t take long for their infectious personalities and music to transfer to the crowd who start to bounce along one by one. Chris’ exuberant high-pitched vocals float perfectly over the uptempo parade of beats they create on songs such as What We Do. If you get the opportunity to catch Le Boom live, take it.
Not only did Otherkin release a triumphant debut album in 2017, they continued to show that they are one of the most exciting live bands in Ireland.
Between supporting Guns’n’Roses at Slane, to playing over 50 dates across Europe - the foursome prove time and time again that their energetic, raucous live energy sets them apart from the rest.
Whilst frontman Luke Reilly interactions with the crowd include crowd surfing, standing on the crowd and numerous other stunts - the music’s quality never falters."
Barq continued to cement their reputation as one of the best new acts in Ireland with a fiery performance of their self-styled agro-soul. Singer Jess Kavanagh is slowly but surely developing into one of the finest front-people in Irish music.
Infinitely watchable, Kavanagh oozes stage presence and backs up her bravado with a beautiful, dexterous vocal delivery, which is as comfortable tackling the Aguilera/Houston diva-sphere as it is delivering a witty hip-hop verse. Standout moments include single Gentle Kind Of Lies and their groovy interpretation of Little Dragon’s Wildfire.
There’s more than enough here to indicate that Barq will be biting mainstages soon enough.
Sal Stapleton’s gender fluid pop baby Bad Bones continues to impress, getting better and better each time we see her.
One of the things that sets Bad Bones apart from other solo electro projects is her striking visual persona, both onstage and throughout her videos, which instantaneously sets her apart from being just another person standing behind a bank of machines creating music.
She also utilises dancers to interpret her music, all of which combines to stimulate the senses in a much more human way than an over-the-top light show ever could. Musically, Bad Bones’ set is equally brave, dispensing with best known track Beg in the opening number and subsequently taking the audience on a journey through the unknown. Luckily for Bad Bones it’s a thrilling ride.
Spud Gun are a technicolour vision even before any music kicks off, all face paint and flowing multi-coloured garb. A swell of noise arises – a clatter of sticks on bongos, a swathe of cymbals, the discordant scrape of violin amidst the swirling effects. A large portion of the audience sit on the carpeted area in front of the stage, until a man in a God costume appears and rouses them. From here onwards, it’s an audio-visual treat, with a suitably histrionic performance from the singer and the bass anchoring it all while everyone else goes berserk.
It’s arch theatre as God intones into a telephone from the stage, his admonishments merging into hellish soundscapes through scuzzy grunge and psych rock, hip-hop, punk and prog, post-rock and pop, lounge-y acid jazz…and that’s just for starters. Zoomorphic dancers covered in glowing lights infiltrate the audience from every angle – jellyfish float through the crowd, elephantine dancers and beasts of the forest move to the gapless music and the entire room is suddenly, wonderfully alive. Spud Gun’s is a wholly immersive show, panoramic sensory pleasure with attention pulled over 360 degrees.
Strong female characters were certainly a big factor in Forbidden Fruit this year and Bonzai brought the heat to both her own set and Mura Masa’s the following day.
The Dublin-raised rapper let slip to the crowd halfway through her set that this was her “home town” but she already had anybody who was unaware of that fact in the palm of her hand by then.
One of the unexpected aspects of Forbidden Fruit this year was seeing how local hip-hop acts faired in comparison to the more established international acts on the bill, and for the most part the Irish acts exceeded expectations.
But when it came to Bonzai that question must be flipped to whether these international acts are good enough to share a stage with Bonzai? And the answer in some cases is a clear no.
Bonzai is streets ahead in terms of stage presence and vocal delivery, and as she proved with Mura Masa, she’s ready for the main stage.