Oh my, did I take my time waking up this morning?! I’m pretty sure I woke up around 8:30am, but only got out of bed at around 11:00am. I’m pretty sure that, by doing that, I instantly killed any trace of jet‐lag.
Swinging the curtains open I noticed the signs of a brilliant day coming my way. Talking to James the night before, he suggested I take a day trip to Howth—once a simple fishing village, and not much more than that nowadays. I packed my Netbook (so I can blog while I’m there) and camera in a small backpack and stormed out of the hostel. Quick bagel & tea breakfast right around the corner, and a few steps further to Connolly Station, which is the main railway terminal in Dublin.
The Connolly Station, though not the biggest or most sophisticated train station in existence, was still enough for me to further my belief that us, in North America, got it all wrong when it comes to transit. How wonderful it is, to be able to move from one place to another quickly and efficiently without requiring a car. Trains here go as frequent as buses go in North America, but, seriously, how far would you be able to ride a bus without pulling your hairs out.
A few clicks on a touch‐screen, quick payment, 5 minutes wait for the train and I was already on my way to Howth, a short 25 minutes train ride on the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit). Not the fastest train, but still very convenient. The train rides above the ground, sifting through crowded neighbourhoods filled with old houses; together with the greyish skies that suddenly came in, the sight resembled 100% what I would imagine Ireland to look like: very green, very old houses, a bit crowded, simple life.
Until I saw the hills on the horizon, as the train was approaching Howth. Minutes later I looked to my left and saw the ocean.
Hills & ocean. What else do you need, really? memories of my past travels to Nova Scotia crept in, remembering how I used to drive along the coasts of Cape Breton Island with its vast green hills pouring into the ocean.
Once I exited the station, I looked around and I couldn’t help but smile. Yes, I actually smiled—there was nothing funny around, just a very pretty sight of a small fishermen town, exactly what I was looking for.
Gazillions of good‐looking seafood restaurants are lined‐up along the harbour; boats, yachts of all sorts were parked about at the bay, surrounded by green hills featuring the occasional house on the slope.
A pleasant walkway takes you to the piers, offering superb, breathtaking views of total relaxation.
I sat on the rocks for about 20–30 minutes, gazing at the ocean, the rocks, the hills… well, gazing at everything around. By that time, it wasn’t cloudy at all anymore. I think my heartbeat dropped considerably due to being completely calm & relaxed. I was waiting for this.
A couple of hours in that serenity‐packed town went by quickly and I started to develop hunger. Indeed, I am on some sort of a diet but there’s no way I’m leaving Howth eating a stinking sandwich; a seafood dish is in order, and so I popped into one of the local restaurants / markets and got myself a seafood chowder in a bread bowl. As the figure playing George Steinbrenner in Seinfeld once said, “there’s nothing like finishing eating, looking down and seeing nothing but the table”.
It was as delicious as it looks.
A short walk back to the station, I encountered a restaurant / cafe offering free Wi‐Fi (these are rare here), so I sat down for a little bit, sipping coffee and catching up with this crazy world, offering all sorts of wars. Then hopped on the train and departed back to Dublin.
If you’re ever in the area, pay Howth a visit. Very worth the while.
Tonight’s venue is located about 25 minutes walk from where I stay, so I thought about getting my hair cut before the show. You know, as a sign of a “new beginning”. A quick stroll down O’Connell Street and I encountered a local barbershop. It was warm outside, and I couldn’t afford to waste too much time. Only then I took a quick look at the barber, saw how he’s working and decided to flee the scene to never return. No wonder Irishmen have interesting haircuts!
Walking towards The O₂, named after the famous telecom giant (well, they do own it after all), was pleasing to the eye.
Entered this brand‐new venue (opened late 2008), picked up my ticket—front row, dead centre—and immediately liked this establishment. The reception area is huge, offering two bars and two food stands—enough to avoid long line‐ups. There also are a couple of lounges offered to O₂ subscribers, offering even more bars. The entire reception area is rather dark, lit with dark purple lights giving you the feeling that you’re in a strip club or something.
(No, no, I was never in any of those… no, really… really…)
The concert hall itself—actually the first concert hall I have ever been to in Europe (the hall at the Hurlingham Club doesn’t really count)—is huge. It seats 9,500 (!)—larger than any North American venue hosting the Get Lucky tour (pretty positive about that).
(that last picture shows you what the venue looks like from the last rows)
Most European shows during this tour don’t include any opening act. The anti‐recording statement has been read by someone other than Paul Crockford tonight; the band caught the stage 20 minutes late, on 8:20pm, and were received very well by the audience (however not as loudly as in some North American show. I guess I’ll have to wait till the tour hits Spain / Italy to get a sense of what constitutes noisy audience).
And there he is again, Ladies and Gentlemen… absent from the first 28 shows, Mr. John McCusker is with us again. Almost everybody got a haircut (hint: John McCusker didn’t get one) and looked fresh to start the European tour.
Another sit‐down show for Mark. There appears to be a certain improvement in his walk… not enough, I guess, to allow him to stand for the entire show. His playing, though, appeared to not have been impacted by the injury at all.
I was surprised to find out that the setlist had no surprises at all (confused? read it again). All songs played today were already played during the North American tour, with Done with Bonaparte being the rarest of them.
Sailing to Philadelphia featured Mark singing by himself; and the Marbletown jam, minus the banjo and plus John McCusker’s violin, was as pleasant as it was during the Kill to Get Crimson tour—my own personal taste favours the violin over the banjo on that one. It was marvellous.
A long, long (yet enjoyable) version of Sailing to Philadelphia, with an endless outro solo and an ass‐kicking performance of Cleaning My Gun.
The usual drinks on stage routine (employed ever since Mark trapped his nerve) featured a few transparent glasses containing some black liquid in them. I am no beer expert (I actually dislike most beers, most of the time; I prefer wine), but I will take a wild guess that that was Guinness (AKA “The Black Stuff”). Makes sense, doesn’t it.
Altogether a very enjoyable concert, great audience. The band’s still in shape and appear to be ready for the upcoming 58 shows.
Beautiful night it was after the concert, so I decided to walk back rather than taking transit.
A bit hungry, I stepped into a place in O’Connell Street offering donairs, kebobs and the like. One of the items there was “Donair Kebob”, saying it was made of “Irish lamb”. Irish lamb? huh? what is that exactly, a lamb with an interesting haircut? I don’t know, I found it a bit funny. The taste, too.
A quick stroll back to the hostel and I’m signing off this post now from the hostel’s lobby (the only location in this hostel with Wi‐Fi available). Tomorrow it’s a 2 hours ride to Belfast for the next show.
P.S. Tonight’s show was the 29th show of the “Get Lucky” tour featuring neither “Before Gas & TV” nor “So Far from the Clyde”. This is my blog… and this is my own tiny, meaningless, private protest. :-)