Stevie G: Huge concerts always give Cork a buzz

The city that once hosted stadium shows by Michael Jackson, Prince, and U2, is about to host some great gigs again, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Stevie G: Huge concerts always give Cork a buzz

Michael Jackson and Prince are two of the huge names who played big Cork concerts.

It seems like a long time now since we had really big shows in Cork. This summer is set to change all that.
The city that once hosted stadium shows by Michael Jackson, Prince, and U2 has also played host to big names such as Lady Gaga and Kanye West in more recent times. This was all before Covid landed here in 2020, but even as Covid numbers rise in 2022, it now seems likely that the big concerts are finally returning to Live at the Marquee, Musgrave Park, and Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

As we get ready for this summer, it’s worth reflecting on the shows of the past for a minute.

There is no doubt that the visits of MJ and Prince were massive coups for Cork. Promoter Oliver Barry made them happen at a time when both superstars were absolutely box office. Michael Jackson was touring his Bad album, which further cemented his status as the ‘King of Pop’, with the first date selling out so quickly that another was added.

Prince played to a more lukewarm audience in Cork. Even an artist as popular as Prince often divided opinion, and many observers took issue with the fact that Prince didn’t interact much with them. Regardless, getting an artist like Prince, whose 80s run rivals Stevie Wonders in the previous decade, was another major coup and a huge event in Cork.

Similarly U2, who had a good relationship with Cork from their early days, were at their peak when they played here at the Joshua Tree tour in the late 80s. They later did so again in 1993 after Zooropa.

Other highlights from the 80s and 90s include the incredible line-up for Feile 95, which would have been impressive enough with the likes of The Stones Roses, Blur, Orbital, and The Prodigy in the main arena of Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The dance arena proved arguably even better though, with Carl Cox, Chemical Brothers, Laurent Garnier, Underworld, Massive Attack, and Andrew Weatherall on the bill, and that wasn’t even counting the concurrent dance weekender in Sir Henry’s.

City Hall played host to some massive shows in this era too, and Bjork, Primal Scream, and New Order were just a few of the big names who played there.

The emergence of Live at the Marquee in 2005 was a big boost for Cork. The site had previously been used for some shows by MCD, but Aiken Promotions used this site as their main base in Cork in every year until the pandemic.

Both Aiken and MCD are bringing big shows to Cork this summer, with the Marquee, Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Musgrave Park expected to draw big numbers of concertgoers from all over the country and beyond.

We really need these shows, just like we did back in 2005. Back then, the only big venue in Cork was The Savoy, with the Opera House and City Hall, like now, being limited by other commitments to much less dates.

Even The Savoy was limited mainly to acts on their way up or nostalgia acts past their peak. It didn’t stop them from hosting legendary shows by the likes of Public Enemy, Roy Ayers, Run DMC, Wu Tang, Janelle Monae, De La Soul, and many more though. It really was a fantastic venue on its day, and it’s sadly unlikely to ever host music again. This is such a shame.

When the Live at the Marquee series of concerts began in the mid-2000s, it really helped further the cause of Cork as a big gig destination.

The size of the Marquee meant that it wasn’t just nostalgia acts or newcomers who could swing by. It’s also why we really need the long-proposed Events Centre sized venue. The buzz around Cork at the time of Kanye’s two visits will surely live long in the memory, and Lana Del Rey, Gaga, Ne-Yo, Ellie Goulding, and many more came here when their careers were really popping.

Older legends such as Neil Young, Dylan, Slayer, The Who, Brian Wilson, Al Green, and Elton John have all come to the Marquee, and it’s had a decent knock-on effect too, as Cork City is regularly jammed around the dates of these shows.

Musgrave Park is on the agenda too, and they will pick up where they left off in 2019 with a bunch of big shows this year, while Páirc Uí Chaoimh will once again welcome big gigs too. It’s about time!

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