A musical oasis brightens up a dull evening

With most of the city centre's pubs and clubs shutting their doors for Millennium Eve and most of the population opting to celebrate…

With most of the city centre's pubs and clubs shutting their doors for Millennium Eve and most of the population opting to celebrate at home, Dublin wasn't exactly dripping with atmosphere. Somewhere in the quietude - Merrion Square to be exact - the National Millennium Committee managed to stage a free open-air concert, providing an oasis of festivity in an otherwise deserted New Year's Eve landscape.

This street party cost more than half a million pounds to stage. It was divided into two parts. The afternoon concert brought 20,000 people - mostly families - to watch Brian Kennedy, Sharon Shannon, Donal Lunny and the Kilfenora eili Ceili Band, with a surprise appearance by Ronan Keating.

The afternoon's musical fare ended at around 6.30 p.m., and the site was cleared for the second show, which began at 7.20 p.m. The flavour for this ticket-only segment was firmly rock 'n' roll, suiting the tastes of the mostly 20-something crowd, which filtered slowly into the area throughout the evening. Dublin band The Picture House opened with some exuberant pop, dispersing the cold and keeping the rain at bay.

Canice Doocey, Carol Shaw and her 15-year-old daughter, Sarah Shaw, all from Roscrea, had travelled to Dublin earlier that afternoon to take part in the city's millennium festivities. "We thought it would be better than sitting in a pub," said Ms Shaw. "We decided to come up on the spur of the moment, just to do something different. We didn't even have tickets to get in, but a garda at the gate gave us three tickets."


Welsh singer David Gray proved popular with the Dublin crowd, and he delivered a strong, sincere performance which included songs such as Please Forgive Me, Babylon and the theme song from the film, This Year's Love. Largely unknown in Britain, but able to sell out the Point over here, Gray caught the mood of the millennium with his song A Century Ends.

Headliners The Divine Comedy injected a note of frivolity into the proceedings with such witty tunes as Generation Sex, The Pop Singer's Fear Of The Pollen Count and National Express. Despite the ban on alcohol, many punters had sneaked some tipple into the venue, and were able to raise a toast during A Drinking Song.

The trad-techno mix of Afro-Celt Sound System blended with the colour and movement of Macnas to end this strangely subdued celebration of a new millennium. With the absence of real fire and flair to ring in the new century, this slightly damp squib was the best we were going to get.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist