Styles (29) is the youngest headline act to perform at Slane since Robbie Williams – who was 24 when he played there in 1998 – and his fans are not the traditional Slane crowd.
The sold-out concert is set to attract up to 80,000 people, many of whom are expected to be young, excited fans aged 16-25.
The majority of the previous acts at Slane, from the Rolling Stones and U2, to Oasis and Guns ‘n’ Roses, featured an older, rock-oriented audience. Unlike those past Slane gigs, Saturday will see a number of young fans with parents in tow – and even whole families – going to see the former One Direction star.
Derry native Carmel McPartland is returning to Ireland with her 13-year-old daughter to see Styles perform on Saturday. It is the second time the pair will have seen the singer live: they saw him play to a packed arena last year in Manchester, where they live.
McPartland’s middle daughter, Ida, is her concert partner. “For the first one I was going with her, but for this one she might be coming with me,” McPartland says.
McPartland, who left Derry to study in England, worked in London for a time before settling in Manchester with her husband and three daughters. She says going to concerts with children is a new experience that allows her to enjoy gigs in a way she would not have before. Adults may worry about the number of people, the security, the venue, “but when you are there with your children, you get to see the excitement through their eyes, you feel the same excitement”.
Known for his interactions with fans during his performances, McPartland says that Styles creates “inclusive experiences” at his concerts. She says the singer has an appeal that is “accessible, whereas others may be a bit more niche”.
“I think many would like to have a child that would give them an excuse to go [to the concert],” McPartland says.
She recommends other parents go with their children to concerts for the “fantastic experience”, adding: “Concerts can be an overwhelming experience, but parents can provide a feeling of safety. And parents would see their children in a different light.”
Sophie Ritter is a 21-year-old literature student from Austria flying into Dublin to see Styles perform this weekend. She secured her tickets at the presale stage but when her parents heard the singer would be performing at Slane Castle, where the likes of Queen, Bob Dylan, Madonna and many others have performed, they decided to make the concert weekend a family holiday and got tickets too.
“It’s very nice to have someone to drive, take photos and pay for [merchandise],” Ritter laughs. “But it’s nice to have that family moment,” she adds when explaining how going to a concert with family differs from going with friends.
Asked about her previous concert experiences, Ritter recalls going to her first concert with her father. Of the prospect of seeing Styles accompanied by both her parents, she says: “It would feel like I’m 12 again, and my dad is with me.”
It helps that her parents are fans of Styles’s music, Ritter says. “My dad likes his latest album and my mom also wanted to come.” Her mother is planning on wearing a Styles-inspired outfit. “I’m so excited and happy. It is very special to me, and we get to make it a family holiday,” says Ritter’s mother Anita.
The family always wanted to come to Dublin, and as a fan of literature, and Sally Rooney in particular, Ritter is also looking forward to stepping into Trinity College to get a taste of the Normal People experience.