Proms on the Pier, Dun Laoighre, Co Dublin – Review by Frances Winston
Sunday 30th August
Appearing: Melanie McCabe, Toni Lee, Phil Coulter, Johnny Logan, Air Supply
This is the inaugural year of Proms on the Pier so we did intend bringing you coverage of both days concerts. However, when our Saturday tickets fell through we were only able to cover Sunday so apologies if this does not appear like a reflection of the event to those who attended the day previous. The Saturday line-up included Ultravox and Live Aid legend Midge Ure alongside classic supergroup 10CC while the Sunday line up kept very much to the 70s and 80s theme of the bill with Eurovision star Johnny Logan and the oft-underrated Air Supply taking top spot on the bill. Although the gates opened at 4.30pm the Dublin/Mayo clash meant we didn’t arrive until around 6pm so missed Toni Lee’s tribute to The Carpenters and former X Factor contestant Melanie McCabe. We were not alone here as many people seemed to arrive just as we were and indeed the venue was very under capacity at this time.
I always feel sorry for the performers lower down the bill at events like this as people often tend to show up later in the day to see the bigger names. It is not unique to Proms but when it is a reasonably intimate and fully seated event like this the empty seats are so much more noticeable. Since I missed their performances I can’t comment on how the ladies managed with the smaller crowd but both are showbiz pros so no doubt they gave it their all.
Phil Coulter (who performed both days) was taking to the stage as we got there and many people seemed to have made a special effort to make it in time to see him as the seats were definitely filling up. Whether you love or hate Phil’s music there is no denying his pedigree as a songwriter and performer and he manipulated the crowd magnificently with his Northern charm and much loved tunes. Having written everything from Shang A Lang for the Bay City Rollers to rugby anthem Ireland’s Call and his own personal favourite The Town I Loved so Well there was something for everyone in his set. Coulter has that rare ability to appear extremely modest while showcasing an impressive body of work and the fact that he had people on their feet dancing and singing along is testament to his showmanship and talent.
Next up was, national treasure and three time Eurovision winner Johnny Logan and a quick search of Twitter and Facebook confirmed that many people had come specifically to see him. Johnny doesn’t perform in Ireland that much at the moment – in fact the last time I saw him perform on these shores was at the recording of the final of TV show the Hit – and he seemed thrilled to be back. He was joined on stage by both his brother and son making it a real family affair. Having received a rapturous reception he threw himself into his set which contained a pretty mixed bag of music. Surprisingly he chose to perform all three of his Eurovision winners early on which the crowd loved but which seriously affected the momentum of his set. Although his performance continued to be energetic and professional there was a slight feeling that he may have peaked too soon as he resorted to a reprise of Hold Me Now, albeit a dance version, in his encore numbers. While Logan is a wonderful performer with a strong voice the reality is many of his records aren’t released in Ireland nowadays so there were one or two numbers that left the crowd scratching their heads. They still loved him though and the audience were beyond appreciative of his efforts. Unfortunately the arena wasn’t even half full still so the impact of the reaction was diluted somewhat.
Headliners Air Supply came on at 9pm and got a suitably warm greeting. They are one of those bands that everyone thinks only had one or two hits but when you look at their discography they were actually hugely successful. Unlike Logan every song that they played was well known and their set was completely geared towards stirring nostalgia.
It certainly worked as the crowd sang along to songs they had probably even forgotten were recorded by the band and many couples took the opportunity to snuggle up under the Dun Laoighre skyline and get lost in the music. They put on a surprisingly impressive show with flawless musicianship, flawless vocals and amazing lighting and it didn’t go unnoticed by those in attendance. The crowd loved them. It was the kind of performance that didn’t require you to be a fan of the music, you just had to be engaged in the moment and appreciative of the talent being displayed on stage.
Unfortunately the venue never filled up. At the end of the night it was still less than half full which doesn’t bode well for next year. Logan said that he really hopes this event takes off as Dun Laoighre needs it and I too was very excited by the prospect of this. The location is fabulous, the idea is good and the line-up was perfect end of summer fare.
Unfortunately on the day I attended they simply didn’t attract the crowds. While everyone there seemed to love the atmosphere and performances the food and drink vendors seemed exasperated by the lack of footfall and the empty seats spoke volumes.
This is unfortunate as it has the potential to do very well and offers something a bit different to the summer festival calendar. No matter how you dress it up the lack of punters does affect the atmosphere and while I would love to see this get a second outing I am not sure it can be justified with this year’s attendance. Perhaps the Saturday crowd balanced the books a bit as it would be a real shame if this was the first and last year of the event.