LIVE At the Marquee is marking 10 years of the Cork city festival, and looking back over the line-ups, we’re stumped to think of a more eclectic motley crew of acts anywhere.
Since the event was introduced in 2005 when Cork was the official European Capital of Culture, hundreds of thousands have hit the big top to see acts ranging from the cheesiest pop to hip-hop to metal.
Now settled in to its home in the Docklands after two years at Monahan Road, the Marquee has nabbed plenty of big names that could easily have headlined Download, Coachella or Glastonbury, as well as acts who could guest on X Factor, pensioner-friendly crooners and folk heroes. If you haven’t been following the line-ups over the years, you’d scratch your head to see Jay Z, Kanye West, Slayer, Morrissey, Bob Dylan, Megadeth, Roxy Music, Nick Cave, The National and The Pixies beside Jessie J, Little Mix, Jedward, Steps and The Priests on the guest list.
But this anything goes ethos at the Docklands means Cork is buzzing for a month every summer with 20-odd high-profile gigs that keep local pubs and street vendors in business for a year. This year there may not be any true outliers like Slayer or Kanye on the list, but it’s another selection of bankable acts who could sell out most of our top venues.
The month-long festival kicked things off last night with a family affair, as Riverdance began a five-show run up until Sunday, including two performances on Sunday. The iconic show is in its 20th year as a stage performance, and it’ll probably still be touring well after everyone else on the bill has retired.
Next Tuesday, June 16, Cork gets the head start on Dublin’s Kilmainham when Beck lands at the Marquee on his Morning Phase tour. The LA anti-folk hero has transcended his slacker indie shtick to release one of the highest rated albums of last year, even if his two Grammy wins became a story of Kanye losing the plot.
In the middle of a European festival whirlwind that’s ticking off metal carnival Download, Billy Idol is playing on June 17, heavy on lip curls, fist-pumps and catchy new wave punk rock riffs. The Londoner sold out Dublin’s Vicar Street in November, so we’re predicting another heaving crowd chanting White Wedding and Mony Mony.
Gurning down the house: Billy Idol’s coming to Cork (photo by antiquiet.com)
From a gnarly punk veteran to a baby-faced boyband, British quartet The Vamps will be the first act to lure the teenybopper crowd on June 18, with the added bonus of Louis Walsh’s mega-hyped new act Hometown. Next weekend, indie-rockers The Coronas have a two-night slot on the 19th and 20th, with HamsandwicH, Roisin O, Hudson Taylor and Little Hours in support on separate nights.
On June 21, The Marquee throws its first curveball with Irish country star Nathan Carter, a kind of airbrushed Daniel O’Donnell. Not that he’s much of a gamble — the self-proclaimed “Ireland’s leading country singer” sells out gigs around the country all the time.
And following Carter’s squeaky clean face without a hint of bum-fluff, ZZ Top are landing in from Texas on June 22, armed with the sleaziest boogie riffs and the most iconic beards in the history of rock’n’roll.
ZZ Top: Don’t ever shave, lads
On a slightly more restrained note, US neo-soul superstar John Legend is taking the stage on June 23. Legend isn’t half as cheesy as many of his R&B crooning peers, with plenty of funk and hip-hop collaborations under his belt, including his Grammy-winner Glory — his song from the movie Selma with Common.
There’s a bit more sparkly pop on June 24, as Ellie Goulding takes the reins for a well-choreographed run-through of her chart hits like Burn, How Long Will I Love You and Love Me Like You Do — with tickets long gone.
Also sold out is the Kodaline gig on June 25, with the Dublin pop-rockers taking over the tent before heading up the road to play Dublin’s Royal Hospital Kilmainham the following night.
And on the 27th, we reckon the Lionel Richie show (below) will be the funniest show over the whole Marquee month. The Scene caught his show in the 3Arena in March and it was part stand-up, part ironic send-up of his own cheesiness and a collection of every single one of his hits, from the funk of the Commodores, to his pop classics and ballads.
On the 28th, Mike Scott’s Celtic rock legends The Waterboys will be going heavy on the fiery blues of their latest album Modern Blues, as well as their iconic calling card The Whole of the Moon.
After a break of a few days, music takes a back seat with Dara O’Briain’s new stand-up show Crowd Tickler, which has been racking up top reviews across the board.
On July 4, the hardest working man in folk, Christy Moore is welcomed back for a night of classics, after appearing in the big top many times over the years.
On July 9, he may be getting even gruffer and grumpier round the edges, but Ireland’s soul legend Van Morrisson will be taking a trip from Belfast to show the young pretenders how it’s done.
The following night, it’s Chic featuring Nile Rodgers (below), who have played so many times in Ireland the last few years they’ll be applying for permanent residency. Expect a set of classic disco and iconic pop songs written by Rodgers, including Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Madonna’s Like a Virgin and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky sneaking in there as well.
The evening will get a bit more earnest on the 11th, as The Frames’ devout fanbase hit the Marquee for a rare gig in the company of Glen Hansard’s crew these days. No surprise that it’s sold out.
At the polar opposite end of the spectrum, the unsinkable Status Quo are bringing their two chords played in 30 different ways, and will have thousands doing side-to-side air guitar on July 12.
On July 13, Damien Rice is following up a five-star reviewed US tour for his third album My Favourite Faded Fantasy, proving the years taking a time out from the Irish singer-songwriter scene haven’t done him any damage.
To top off the festival on July 14 we have Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, with the Britpop elder statesman settling into his solo career with the expansive second album Chasing Yesterday. Of course you can expect some Oasis singalongs and enough one-liners and rants that could settle or start an argument in a second — but the music fans will be too loved-up after a month in the Marquee for any of that nonsense.
Original version in Irish Daily Star