After a highly enjoyable but slightly flawed initial rebirth Féile returned to Thurles without the classical element (for the most part) but with a much improved main stage layout and an ambitious two day line-up, that once more delivered a nostalgia drenched musical weekend.
Our Féile 19 experience kicks off with The Frank & Walters, one of the returning acts from Féile Classical who are notably far more comfortable without having to adapt to the confines that the orchestral additions seemed to place on them last year. They deliver a performance driven with real intensity especially on more recent material like Stages and Goddess of Athena before they unleash their early indie gems After All and This is a Song to an absolutely joyful reception.
Horslips are next up, the legends who Barry Devlin notes were on a “29 year fag break” so missed out on the original days of Féile take a while to get the crowd going. The Power and the Glory certainly gets the crowd onside before the double whammy of Trouble with a Capital T and the rifftastic An Dearg Doom have the audience jigging with glee.
And then it was time for one of the most anticipated performances of the year, with the return of Sinead O’Connor. Introduced by Jerry Fish as “a diamond in our midst” there can be no doubt that she puts on a performance that lights up the night.
She may personify vulnerability & delicateness as she meekly shuffles on stage but once she begins to sing she become a focal point of emotive power. Accompanied by the wonderful strings of the Irish Chamber Orchestra – used to perfection – O’Connor captivates everyone immediately when launching in to a mesmerising rendition of Rainy Night in Soho.
Haunted, with Steve Wall more than amply filling in for Shane McGowan is an emotional triumph with both singers feeding off and supporting each other, as if its just the two of them alone together in Semple Stadium.
Her set is short, but sublime, and is brought to a suitably triumphant conclusion with Nothing Compares 2 U leaving everyone yearning for more.
Sinead was certainly a huge act to follow but The Stunning are more than up to the task announcing their presence with an elongated tribal intro featuring three drummers and menacing guitar licks before belting out Brighten Up Your Life.
Theirs is a set-list mixing tracks from all corners of their back catalogue, including the inspired inclusion of To The Bright & Shining Sun from the Walls’ alternative self-titled musical incarnation.
Heads are Gonna Roll, Rusty Old River and the Dylan classic Like a Rolling Stone delight and of course Brewing Up a Storm draws the first night at Feile 19 to a raucously euphoric conclusion.
The second night of Féile 19 kicks off with Mundy pumping out his sure fire crowd pleasers July, Mexico and Galway Girl along with some “interesting” cover versions including The Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated.
Up next its The Fat Lady Sings with Nick Kelly’s ever present smile clearly demonstrating how delighted they are to be back playing live together again, Be Still is a classy start to proceedings while Deborah with its lively harmonica line gets the dancing shoes going, while Fear and Favour takes us all the way back to the very beginnings of the band. Finishing things off with Arclight they provide the first major highlight of the evening proceedings.
Brian Downey’s Thin Lizzy tribute/reunion Alive & Dangerous is a curious inclusion but on a bill that is as nostalgia driven as this one it was always going to work. Its always great to hear some of the classic Lizzy hits especially with original guitarist Eric Bell joining the line-up and what a fitting way to celebrate the 70th birthday of Phil Lynott, with Semple Stadium belting out The Boys are Back in Town.
An even more curious inclusion is EMF but they certainly embrace the opportunity, it’s great to hear Unbelievable after all this time but its the slightly chaotic EMF that ends their set in hilarious but endearing fashion.
If Sinead O’Connor was the star of Friday night then it there is no doubt that Therapy? wear that mantle on Saturday, with as you would expect, a far more forceful sound. Its a set that is wilfully provocative rather than just purely evocative, the chorus to Kakistocracy “It’s okay not to be okay, it’s okay not to be okay” could be taken as a call to arms in these troubled times.
As forecast, mid-set the weather begins to deteriorate but in contrast the band gets better and better as Knives, Screamager, Callow and the immense Meat Abstract are all unleashed, as are the fervent moshing masses. As the title of their final song of the night goes Success? Success is Survival and in the ever-increasing deluge that is definitely true of both the band themselves & their loyal revellers.
Unfortunately The Sultans of Ping FC get the worst of the weekend’s weather but that doesn’t put off the many enthusiastic punters and of course Where’s Me Jumper unites the bravest of those on the pitch with the more reserved souls taking shelter, in musical celebration.
Fittingly enough it is left to Something Happens to wrap up this year’s event given that front man Tom Dunne has risked plenty including his own health to make these returns to Thurles possible.
As expected Parachute gets the best audience response of the evening with everyone in full sing-a-long mode whilst Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello, Beach and The Devil in Miss Jones are all delivered with full-on gusto before Féile 19 is brought to, let’s say an interesting close with YMCA.
And so ends another Trip to Tipp laden with echoes of the past but still capable of creating fresh new vibrant memories, will it be back next year? One can only hope…..
Article header/thumbnail photo – Gigs Ireland