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Danielle Brigham, 14 Aug 2003
The deer were nowhere to be seen. The temperatures were strangely high for Irish summer and even the sun made a brief appearance. Except for the 135,000-odd people and several hours of fine live music, it was just an ordinary day in the park.
The roaring guitars of Red Lemon could be heard from as far away as the Quays at 3 o’clock when the Dublin four-piece christened the main stage with an unlikely offering from the Louis Walsh school of ‘hard rock’. A few raised eyebrows from those punters who’d been queuing since 7am to secure the best vantage points for Robbie’s arse. Not much else.
Then, a massive shift in the park as seasoned Swedish merry-makers The Wannadies took the reins with big smiles and funky li’l wind pianos. Lots of la la la’s, ba ba ba’s and cha cha cha’s (“how every good song should end,” according to frontman Par Wikston). By the end of their set – which included the hit ‘You And Me Song’ – The Wannadies had established an all-out party atmosphere across the park – something which was promptly quashed by the onset of Kelly Osbourne.
You can’t blame her for trying, but Miss Osbourne has not inherited a shred of her father’s onstage charisma or singing ability, for that matter. Nervous giggling broke up the monotony of her set of consecutively forgettable songs.
Ash brought things back on track with a high-impact performance from their stellar opening, ‘The Girl From Mars’. They delivered a barrage of such classics as ‘Taking Me Over’ and ‘Shining Light’, whose big choruses resounded throughout the growing masses.
A jolly Tim Wheeler also offered a preview of crispy fresh material, with ‘Renegade Calvacade’ and ‘Orpheus’ providing a promising preview of their long awaited new record out in early 2004. Choice stuff, as always.
But by half past eight even the distant deer were holding their collective bladders in anticipation of Mr Williams. Naturally, when he did appear he did it head first – suspended bungee-style from above the stage. Enter the 15-piece band and a half dozen dancers and Robbie launched into an earth shattering rendition of ‘Let Me Entertain You’.
From the sheer size of the event it was destined from the outset to be one mammoth Robbie experience for fans. He could have stood up their and flossed his teeth and it would have had the crowd gushing. In fact for the closing leg of his Escapology tour (the biggest concert in Irish history, no less) Robbie had set out to make this night the highlight of his career. And for all his endless cheek, this was the night he was speechless.
“My blood is English but my heart is Irish,” he proclaimed before attaching an Irish flag to his microphone stand. Always a good move.
Belting out hit after hit he peppered his performance with his trademark tomfoolery finding delight with the stuffed toys, beach balls and underpants that found their way within reach. He spoke into random mobile phones, pulled fans onstage and even incited a wedding proposal. As he said himself, “That’s entertainment.” The man is a born performer.
Spirits soared even as the rain came down. He took to the end of the T-stage with a guitar and performed a few acoustic numbers, including ‘Btter Man’ and ‘Fuck The Rain’ (our new national anthem perhaps?). We loved him even more for being wet.
Twenty-four years ago some 250,000 people from all over Ireland gathered in the same spot to hear the Pope give mass. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times then that Robbie Williams could command such a congregation with his all-singing, all-dancing extravangaza. And whether or not the audience would agree with his (and his best mate’s) claim that this was the performance of his life, for these two hours he clearly felt like God.