It’s one of the most iconic settings for a concert anywhere in the world, and dozens of the top international stars have climbed over each other just to play at it – ever since they began in 1981, Slane Castle Gigs have become synonymous with top quality music.
Nearly 40 years after first bringing U2 to Slane Castle, Lord Henry Mount Charles – who still lives in the castle with his family to this day – takes part in a public talk at The Wild Duck, about celebrating the legacy of the music which has been played at this location, as well as their new legacy with Slane Irish Whiskey.
The night begins with Hot Press Deputy Editor Stuart Clark sitting down with Lord Henry himself, as well as his son Alex. Their discussion ranges from some of the more famous (and infamous!) gigs played there over the years, as well as the idea behind making Slane Irish Whiskey.
From entertaining The Rolling Stones with a memorable night in Slane Castle in 1982, to trying to contain the raucous Gallagher brothers in 1995, Lord Henry’s stories exemplify the kind of warmth that made the biggest stars want to play at the venue, as well as the organisation that would made audiences want to flock there each year in their tens of thousands.
As well as this, Alex Conyngham – who has co-founded Slane Irish Whiskey – speaks about how the family took one of the most revered places for music and made it a home for great whiskey. He talks about the challenges that went into turning the Slane Estate’s 18th century buildings into the distillery it is today, as well as detailing his passion for Slane Irish Whiskey (which is a uniquely sumptuous tipple, as everyone who was present at The Wild Duck can attest to!)
Following this panel chat, renowned Meath act Ham Sandwich take to the stage for a performance which pay tribute to the many phenomenal bands who have played at Slane over the years. The indie rock act are no strangers to this stage themselves, having opened it back in 2013 in support of Bon Jovi’s gig there.
They start their set with a heartfelt rendition of Foo Fighter’s ‘Everlong’. Foo Fighters, of course, rocked the venue back in 2015 with one of the most blistering performances in years.
The band then moved back to 1993, where they performed Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’, a song which gives full reign to Niamh Farrell’s delicately soulful crooning.
Fast forward two years for REM’s ‘Man On The Moon’, which is the first of several songs to really get the packed crowd dancing and singing along.
Ham Sandwich then play one of their own – Stories From The Surface track ‘All Worthwhile’ – which leads us nicely into an intermission. After a short break, they return with a bang, giving a liberating performance of Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’ (seriously, think of how difficult it is to do a song like this and not have it sound karaoke-ish and gimmicky – which it doesn’t at all). Madonna gave her landmark performance in Slane back in 2004.
The hits continue in earnest, then, as the band deliver Bruce’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’. Not including a song by the American rock hero would almost certainly have seemed out of place, considering that his 1985 performance at Slane was voted the Greatest Ever Irish Concert by a Hot Press Irish Readers’ Poll a few years ago.
After another one of their own songs – the upbeat ‘Ants’ – Ham Sandwich decide to do something “they weren’t going to do and haven’t planned for.” They get themselves prepared for a rendition of a song by 2013’s second Slane headliner. There’s a few chuckles from members of the crowd who’ve already worked out who that is, before Niamh launches straight into Dido’s chorus on Eminem’s ‘Stan’. But all the credit must be given to Podge, who begins rapping the first verse of the song like he’s just remembered the lyrics a few seconds ago. He gets about half way through the second verse before he gives up with an exasperated laugh – but the crowd are already cheering him for his attempt. It’s good craic, and a nice addition.
To wrap things up, Ham Sandwich have a variety of choices on their hands. Rolling Stones are an option, as are Queen, U2, Thin Lizzy…The list goes on. But in the end, they finish on a high, with David Bowie’s funk-fused rock song ‘Let’s Dance’.
And we do, until long after the applause is over and the band leave the stage.