The second of two summer dates in Slane arrived yesterday as 80,000 fans travelled to the Castle with high expectations for a day filled with high quality hip-hop acts. Following a controversial cancellation in 2005, Slim Shady was back in front of an Irish audience for his Slane debut on the back of a well received Oxegen headline slot in 2011, accompanied by the likes of Plan B, Tyler The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt.
The immediately noticeable feature of this year's event for fans was the massive security operation undertaken by Gardai due to the numerous tragedies at last years event headlined by Swedish House Mafia. Several checkpoints were passed on entry to the gig with metal detectors employed and careful searches taking place, to the credit of the organisers who deserve a special mention for their efforts.
The day kicked off with Chicago bred newcomer Chance The Rapper whose mixtape Acid Rap was released earlier this year to considerable acclaim, followed by hip-hop supergroup of sorts Slaughterhouse, and Shady Records artist Yelawolf, each of whom received little to no response from the dull Irish crowd who seemed only to be here for the headline act. The same problem followed as Earlwolf took to the stage around the half 5 mark, with the majority of the crowd seemingly oblivious to the fact that they were watching two of the biggest upcoming names in rap music at present in Tyler The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, members of controversial rap collective Odd Future.
Notorious for their high octane, extreme live shows, Tyler and Earl (accompanied by their faithful OF associates Jasper and Taco) did their very best to liven up the crowd with an easy going, comical stage presence throughout mixed with energetic performances that was all but lost on 90 percent of those present. The band seemed to enjoy playing on such a massive scale if, although it did prevent them from acting out their usual stage dive antics which in turn led to a far quieter atmosphere than they usually experience at home and all around Europe. All in all, a good performance that deserved a better reaction on a wasted crowd.
Things began to improve with the introduction of Plan B at half 7, an easier act for the audience to connect with as chart hits like 'She Said', 'Stay Too Long' and the Chase & Status backed 'End Credits' were received warmly as the evening began to kick off. Following the Brit's set, excitement began to kick in as the grounds filled up and a party atmosphere descended on concert goers who waited impatiently for the man they'd all come to see, Marshall Mathers. The view of a sea of music lovers under the sunset was the only true moment of the day that Slane could be appreciated in it's full glory, as a massive Irish event that would overwhelm even the most experienced of international acts.
The stage was well and truly set as Eminem arrived just after 9pm, who kicked off with brand new single 'Survival' before continuing with work taken from recent albums Relapse (2009) and Recovery (2010) for the opening group of songs. The more memorable work came relatively early on however with the likes of 'Kill You', 'Mosh' and 'White America' making appearances to the delight of the crowd, who were in full voice by now and responded word for word with every single lyric the rapper delivered, which mostly masked the majorly disappointing fact that a background vocal track was being used throughout the performance, a shameful feature for any genuine recording artist to employ in concert.
That wasn't the least underwhelming factor of the night however, as Eminem consistently and relentlessly cut songs in half, refusing to play a full version of the classic songs that the Irish audience were longing to hear, among them no less than (and not limited to) 'The Real Slim Shady', 'Stan', 'The Way I Am', 'My Name Is', 'Sing For The Moment', 'Without Me',and 'Cleaning Out My Closet' which were subject to editing in just the first verse and chorus before Em moved swiftly on in favor of less popular work such as 'Airplanes Pt. 2' and 'Lighters'. If any of this sounds familiar, that may be due to the fact that those in attendance at Oxegen 2011 will have witnessed an identical setlist, rendering their experience a mostly pointless one unless they came for a repeat performance. Following the completion of the gig with 8 Mile favourite 'Lose Yourself' after just 90 minutes, you may be left to ponder the fact that if each song had been performed in full we would have experienced a more acceptable set length of over 2 hours, although maybe that's too much to ask of Mathers these days.
While the performance may have been questionable, the audience were in great spirits throughout and it was clear to see that the majority in Slane had greatly enjoyed their night, although the disgracefully lengthy process of leaving the venue left many in bad spirits on the way home. Combined with the fact that there was a noticeable amount of crowd trouble in spite of Gardai's best efforts, it is difficult to see the continuing attraction of Slane Castle as a concert venue. Legendary reputation aside, the poorly executed crowd organisation and travel arrangements make for an experience that is absolutely bettered by the likes of Croke Park, Aviva Stadium and The O2.
For this reviewer if none else, I can safely say that my first time in Slane will be my last. 80 Euro? Next time catch the DVD, you'll have a better view.
Review by Andrew Lambert
Photos: Paul Harries