Gods smile as festival closes on a high note
Stunning sets from headliners Coldplay and Beyonce send revellers home on a high, writes Ken Sweeney
Superstars Beyonce and Coldplay brought the curtain down on the Oxegen Festival last night.
With the stellar line-up and a smile from the weather gods, the wide-open spaces of the first two days were gradually filled by an influx of concert-goers buying last-minute day tickets.
For those who had missed Mass, the first act on the main stage Rubberbandits provided what they called a "Sunday service". 'Blasphemy' doesn't come close to describing proceedings.
Expect a few calls to RTE Radio's 'Liveline' over their set, performed in front of an altar and featured stripping altar boys, and 'Prayers For The Faithful' offered for Cork people because they have "really annoying accents".
Defending the "holy show", Bandits' frontman Blind Boy Boat Club told the Irish Independent, "It's our own religion. We can do what we want with it," he said of the show which, at one point, brought the crowd to their knees in mock prayer.
Predictably, the biggest cheer came for their 2010 Christmas hit 'Horse Outside', music to the ears of fan Liam McGee.
But that's if he could hear it -- the 24-year-old from Strabane, Co Tyrone, was stood in the front row in a horse's head. A few feet away stood Pamela Mac (24), one of a big contingent who had travelled up from the Rubberbandits' home town of Limerick to support them at their biggest show yet.
Alice Steen, Emily Flowerdown, and Amy Garret, all 18 and from North Wales found themselves presented with a set of drumsticks by Liam Gallagher of band Beady Eye when they had been in the front row of the main stage the night before.
While Beth Rochford (18), from Carlow, had "high-fived" singer Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas the night before during their set.
Barber David Feely, from Daingean, Co Offaly, arrived at Oxegen with the name of the festival shorn into his scalp by colleagues in Tommy Clarke's Barbers in Tullamore.
"I come to Oxegen every year, but in 2011 I wanted to do something special. The hair will grow back -- but it's made me pretty popular down here," said Mr Feely.
At their first Oxegen were blondes in high spirits Lorna O'Neil from Kilkenny and Hannah O'Shea from Waterford, both 17.
"We will definitely be back next year. The atmosphere, the bands, everything was great," said Ms O'Neil.
Among the biggest Irish names performing in Punchestown was Thurles singer Una Healy with girl band The Saturdays.
"It's great to be back home and singing to so many familiar faces," Healy told the crowd during their set in the Heineken Green Spheres tent.
Later in the evening, the big stars of Oxegen came out.
Black-Eyed Peas' singer Fergie did some guitar worshipping when she joined former Gun 'N' Roses member Slash for 'Beautiful Dangerous' during his set on the main stage.
Next up was Beyonce.
Along with her husband Jay-Z, dubbed the King and Queen of hip-hop, it was fitting that the 29-year-old had arrived in Ireland at 7pm last night with a royal court of over 150 dancers, backing singers and assistants.
Slick choreography was to the fore as she performed hits including 'Crazy In Love' and 'If I Were A Boy', appearing onstage as an immaculate pristine vision -- more so to an unshaven, smelly Oxegen audience who hadn't had a bath in three days. Still, that wasn't enough to stop Beyonce jumping into the pit to shake hands with fans during her final song 'Halo'.
"Great to meet all you guys. Good bless you. Have a beautiful night " the star told her audience.
Once pretenders to U2's throne, headliners Coldplay managed to eclipse the Irish group when both shared a bill at the Glastonbury Festival last month. Key to that success and their show-stopping finale last night are fantastic tunes like 'Viva La Vida' and 'Fix You' in which singer Chris Martin's voice manages to wring out every note of passion. The proof of this was that hours after Coldplay left the stage, their songs were still being sung on the festival campsites.
That says it all really.