Live performance has always been the beating heart of the music industry. But today it is the big earner too.
And 2020 will be a historically busy year for concerts in Ireland, as craggy icons such as Westlife and Guns 'n' Roses continue their comebacks and new sensations including Lewis Capaldi and Gerry Cinnamon play some of their biggest shows here yet.
One bright spot is the emergence of Munster as an attractive touring option for bands. But this is a bittersweet turn of events as the curtain comes down on Cork’s Live at a Marquee after more than a decade. Many greats have made the journey south in that period, among them Elton John, Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters and Neil Young.
Still, it will be a farewell to remember. The National, the thinking person’s angst-ridden rockers, play one of just two Irish concerts at the docklands venue on June 8. The other date is June 7, at a new Live at the Docklands event in Limerick.
With The National having released their arguably masterpiece, I Am Easy To Find, in 2019 and their guitarist Bryce Dessner curating yet another successful Sounds From A Safe Harbour festival in Cork, the group is operating at the peak of their abilities.
So for all the heartache and angst in their music, their mini-Irish tour feels likes a shard of light as we look ahead from the darkest days of January.
Live at the Marquee also welcomes Dido (June 10) and Diana Ross (June 25). And there will be return performances by country boy-prince Nathan Carter (May 31), The Coronas (May 29) and Sinead O’Connor (June 5) . For music fans of a certain age and disposition the highlight, though, will be a set by techno veterans Orbital (June 20).
The last time they played Cork was at Feile 1995, when they had a frank exchange of views backstage with the Stone Roses, after the Manchester legends overran their slot and kept Orbital’s Hartnoll brothers waiting. Things are sure to go more smoothly on this occasion as they are joined by DJs Kerri Chandler, Brame and Hamo, Fish Go Deep, Stevie G on June 20.
Up the road at Musgrave Park, Orbital’s Nineties electro fellow travellers The Chemical Brothers are one of the big names coming touching down (June 30).
The storied rugby stadium also welcomes Lewis Capaldi (June 18), who has copper-fastened his status as the pale, male Scottish answer to Adele and whose Leeside gig follows a run in the spring at 3Arena, Dublin through March.
Musgrave Park’s summer of the sublime and the ridiculous will, in addition, find room for Gerry Cinnamon (June 19), who has become a sensation thanks to his gutbucket pub rock and his championing of the all-weather bucket hat. He won many new fans opening for Liam Gallagher at the same venue last year.
And there will be repeat visits to Cork by close-cropped troubadour Dermot Kennedy (June 27) and The Script (June 23), the latter an outfit so self-consciously anthemic they managed to turn their appearance on the Christmas Day Top of the Pops into a mini-Live Aid (or so singer Danny O’Donoghue appeared to believe as he length close and serenaded the camera).
The brycreemed big daddy of Cork shows though will be the return of Westlife, who bring their man-band mothership to Pairc Ui Chaoimh (August 28, 29). Westlife’s reunion could have gone two ways. It was entirely possible that the world had gone off mawkish harmonised pops, especially when now belted out for four wrinkly warblers well into their middle-years.
But no. It turns out we had been hanging on, a bit desperately, for a slurpier Take That. And Westlife are more than happy to resume their position as middle of the road juggernauts.
Festivals will continue to dominate the Irish summer. Electric Picnic is back as August turns to September though without the beloved Body and Soul area for the first time.
The August Weekend Bank Holiday for its part welcomes the return of All Together Now at Curraghmore House in Waterford which, unlike Electric Picnic, has already announced earlier headliners in Iggy Pop and Girl Band.
Indiependence in Mitchelstown returns too, where The Streets have already been unveiled as headliner (July 31, August 1,2). Festival season will have already been underway for several months, having kicking off with the tenth anniversary Forbidden Fruit at Dublin’s Royal Hospital Kilmainham (May 30, 31).
Still summer can seem a long time away in the dog days of January. Happily there’s lots to look forward to in the interim. Masked heavy rockers Slipknot begin a busy year for Dublin’s 3Arena on January 14.
Hearthrob siblings The Jonas Brothers next sweep in on January 31 while there is good news for fans of alternative country with an appearance at Vicar Street by Sturgill Simpson on February 1. The big rock event of 2020 is surely, however, the return of Guns 'n Roses on June 27, when they perform at Marlay Park in Dublin.
Cork Opera House, for its part, stages the second Right Here, Right Now festival on February 22. Mick Flannery and Tennessee songwriter Valerie June are already confirmed.
On the subject of Cork and rock ’n roll, The Murder Capital – fronted by Leesider James McGovern – deliver their biggest ever Irish show at Vicar Street on February 27.
Another rising Cork superstar is singer Lyra. She’s tipped to strike it big in 2020 and prepares for a bumper festival season by headlining Cyprus Avenue in the city on March 1.
Chills of a different variety will be served up back at 3Arena in March, where pretentious Manchester rock group The 1975 are followed by The Script, who sweep in for three nights. Across the river at BGE Theatre, electro boffin Jon Hopkins will play his largest and surely most spectacular Irish show yet on March 6.
Two days later, attention again turns south as the residential It Takes A Village festival is back at Trabolgan in East Cork. Mad Professor, Scary Eire, Pillow Queens and Bantum are some of the major names.
More are to be announced. It’s further proof that after years of Dublin dominance live music is again becoming a truly all-Ireland affair.