Our reporter Ciara O’Loughlin attends James Vincent McMorrow at the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin and tells us all about it.
Social distancing pods, face masks, and a lack of booze - the first gig in Ireland since the beginning of the pandemic is very different from the crowded concerts of the pre-Covid world.
But as the sun shines down on Dublin’s Iveagh gardens life feels somewhat normal again as friends laugh with one another and dance in their pods of four.
The atmosphere is calm but buzzing at the same time. It's well organised and as one reveller says, they “feel safe”.
As I walk inside the first thing I’m surprised at is the pods. They’re not the metal stands that I expected from viewing other countries pilot events. They’re just patches of green grass spaced out with poles and rope, much less intimidating.
The opening act Sorcha Richardson describes perfectly what the first pilot gig in Ireland is like: “It feels like a Sunday 1pm at a festival,” she says. “But I don’t think you’re hungover.”
Not only are the lucky 500 who managed to nab tickets for the first live concert most likely not hungover, but they’re also not drunk.
There’s no alcohol for sale at this pilot event, but it doesn’t dampen spirits. Everyone seems to just be elated to listen to a bit of live music. After all, it has been almost 500 days since any of us have been to a gig.
Also, to soften the blow on the no-alcohol rule there is an ice cream and crepe van.
Not only have the lucky 500 won “the hunger game of concert tickets” as Sorcha calls it, but they also participate in the biggest birthday party of the year as the crowd sings Happy Birthday to one of the Irish singer's band members.
Sorcha’s band member Cian isn’t the only one celebrating a special occasion, Adam, from Drogheda, is celebrating 15 years of marriage with his wife at the gig and his 46th birthday.
“It’s pure luck that I got tickets when there was only 500,” he says. “I like James so I follow him online and saw about the tickets.
“I’m happy out, I’m just here to have a good time.”
Julie from Wicklow says she’s delighted to have scored tickets for the much-anticipated gig.
“It feels weird,” she says about being at the first gig since the pandemic. “It’s a bit overwhelming, but we are so happy.
“They’ve done an amazing job, it’s really safe, I feel really safe.”
And she’s not wrong, it does feel safe. To control the number of people entering the grounds, staggered times were given on individual tickets and for contact tracing purposes the person who bought the ticket has to be the one attending.
Inside, everyone has to wear masks while going to their pod, going to the toilet or buying food, and once inside the pods masks can be taken off.
As we wait for the main act James Vincent McMorrow to come on stage, Swedish House Mafia blares from the speakers. And although people aren’t jumping up and down as is usual for a song like this, it’s both strange and refreshing to hear.
But as soon as the Irish singer-songwriter takes to the stage every single person stands up and roars.
“I’ve never been as nervous for anything in my entire life,” he says. “It’s been a long time since people have got to hear songs in a field with other people. It’s been a hard year for everyone.
“It’s been so hard to have [music] taken away but it’s so good to have it back. Clap for the time we’ve lost together.”
And Clap we do. Before singing his gorgeous single Higher Love the musician starts with an upbeat tune.
The first song captures the mood of the night perfectly- fun, but not crazy, with a whole lot of hope.