Concert goers awoke on Sunday morning to find the news dominated by troubled reports of stabbings, difficulties getting to and from the Phoenix Park venue and twit pics of knee deep, foot prints in the mud. Suffice it to say the odds were not exactly in favour of the last of this weeks Phoenix Park gigs. 45,000 people rushing towards a sold out gig in the Phoenix Park will never make for an easy journey but once you were inside the venue, with wellies and a raincoat in tow, spirits were high and refused to be tarnished by the bad press from the previous day.

Following support from Here We Go Magic, We Are Augustines, Bressie and Temper Trap, Florence and the Machine kick started the set with the powerful opener from Ceremonial’s – Only If For A Night. They took to the stage at 19.10 – twenty minutes earlier than scheduled, not even giving the crowd a chance to get impatient. “It’s wonderful to be back in the Emerald Isle” says Welch, “it’s time for some human sacrifices” she drawls. Much to the dismay of the security she announces that everyone – “whether lover or stranger” needs to raise up the person beside them onto their shoulders. She takes a quick count,  giggles and launches seamlessly into Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up). Everyone, but the security guards, is loving it. Next up is Spectrum, which, coincidentally was released on Sunday. Florence is in flying form, belting out tune after tune with the utmost ease. Her vocal range and enchanting tones are frankly more impressive live than on any recording. Heartlines evokes the familiar, somewhat eerie element of her catalogue that fans are drawn to. Throughout this number Welch’s face is projected onto the giant triptych-esque display. A sip from her goblet of red wine provoked an unscheduled but appreciated chorus of Black Velvet. Leave My Body is swiftly followed by the opening chords of Shake it Out, “Hands up if you did something you regret last night” she shouts. “It was fine” she mutters before continuing. This is in no way a laboured performance. Welch is as fresh as a daisy and as sly and sultry as a cat. The flame-haired songstress has perfected her stage craft and ability to work an audience. She runs across the stage, hair flowing with her full length dress rippling in the wind. By the time she’s finished after an impressive vocal performance of No Light, No Light I’m genuinely wondering how Snow Patrol will top the performance.

However, any doubts I may have had about the headliners are immediately pushed aside as Snow Patrol storm the stage with Hands Open. It’s clear from the start they are offering a highly crafted show. This is a unified, well presented, stadium production. The lighting and visuals are extraordinary and elevate every song to a different kind of concert experience. The crowd chanted the lyrics for Take Back the City, as on screen, flowers blossomed from nooks and crannies of a virtual metropolis. The eagle and snow-flake are recurring themes in the visuals and take us on a journey as far as the icy Antarctic(Shut Your Eyes) and through the streets of Paris(Open Your Eyes) where the gradual swell corresponds to footage from Claude Lelouch’sC’était un rendez-vous’, leaving us hovering up on the peak of Montmartre. At this stage Lightbody has the crowd eating out of his hands. “Are you with us Dublin?” he shouts.

Fallen Empires is the stand out performance and has Lightbody and the crowd chanting “We are the light, we are the light” in unison. The visuals at this point are exceptional, eagles soar in the background as green lasers fly across the stage and over the crowd intertwining with the fog machine, creating an extra layer of hovering green clouds. The beat drops and the crowd is frenetic. The set list is a mixture of the last four albums, old favourites such as Chocolate are spellbinding and Chasing Cars even has all the tougher looking lads singing along. Help from Maria Doyle Kennedy was provided for the female line of Set Fire to the Third Bar. Called Out in the Dark is another hit with the audience but if we’re being honest, at this stage every song is going down well. This is a feel good show and Lightbody thanks the Irish for supporting them the longest; eighteen years at this point. As he commences the encore he states that the band have had some really spectacular gigs in Ireland but this is hands down the favourite. Lightbody coaxes his Dad on stage just before the personal – Lifening. During Just Say Yes, from the front to the very back, the crowd are effervescent, dancing in the mud and singing all the words.

Florence and the Machine’s performance was fantastic but it has to be said, Snow Patrol stole the show. They proved their standing as Ireland’s biggest export since U2. I’ve seen them play many times before but can only say this was something special and of a different caliber, that even non Snow Patrol fans enjoyed. If you haven’t caught this leg of their tour, go see it while you can. You won’t be sorry.

Florence & The Machine and Snow Patrol Photo Gallery

Photos: Kieran Frost

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