That Was the Year That Was; in Comparison to Previous Years, the Last Has Put Ulster Well and Truly Back on the Map as a Popular Live Music Stopping Point for Big Bands

By Martin, Paul | The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), December 27, 1997 | Go to article overview

That Was the Year That Was; in Comparison to Previous Years, the Last Has Put Ulster Well and Truly Back on the Map as a Popular Live Music Stopping Point for Big Bands


Martin, Paul, The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland)


Ulster's live music scene was re-born in 1997. At the start of the year who would have guessed that we'd be hosting a sell-out U2 concert at the Botanic Gardens with over 40,000 fans leaping to the sound of Pop Mart?

Who would have dreamed that the massive Radiohead would have played to a tiny crowd at a secret gig in Queen's or that Ulster would have hosted the Heineken Rock Awards?

Few would doubt that in comparison to previous years, the last has put Ulster well and truly back on the map as a popular live music stopping point for big bands.

At the risk of sounding predictable, it would be ridiculous not to highlight U2's famous Botanic Gardens gig as the momentous concert of the year. Although I'm not a U2 fan, I'll never forget the almost surreal scene as fans lined the rooftops outside the venue just to get a glimpse of the historic occasion.

On the night, Bono was in top form, and having not been in Ulster for almost seven years, they actually re-shaped their show to include some of the older hits.

But we must not forget that Ulster's music year didn't begin and end with U2. On the pop music front we had Boyzone, Bryan Adams, M People and The Lighthouse Family while those into a harder sound were treated to the likes of the Charlatans and Radiohead.

Dublin also offered its usual high standard contribution to proceedings, hosting Michael Jackson's History concert at a packed RDS, and other big name artists and bands such as Blur, No Doubt and Robbie Williams.

For me, the most spectacular stage show had to be Jacko's. I was lucky enough to be at the front of the 40,000 crowd as the legend, moonwalked, spun and leaped his way through an impressive set which proved his crown as the King of Pop was still firmly in place.

There are a few underlying problems which will ultimately unsettle any more progress on the live music front here over the next few years though. We still don't have adequate venues to attract big name stars, and while U2's Botanic Gardens spectacular proved we can host the biggest of concerts, any big artists who come our direction during the colder months simply won't have anywhere to play.

The end result is that for some of the bigger concerts Ulster fans have to dig deeper into their pockets and find the enlarged expense of attending a concert in Dublin. …

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