I imagine if Oasis reform there will be a date in Slane or The Phoenix Park. Even though ABBA have recorded some new original material to be released in winter 2018, there is no plans to perform, but if they were to announce a show, there would be massive interest. We loved ABBA as kids – even though a lot of us didn’t admit it.
Over the years, I’ve been to a few live gigs; U2, Plant and Page, The Communards, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Andy Williams (brilliant) Robbie Williams, The Verve, and Oasis and the Coronas. Like most people, there are artists I wouldn’t be that interested in and wouldn’t necessarily go to see them. Some might not be too bothered if Oasis reformed and announced a new album and a tour, but I’d go.
Not all bands and artists fill stadiums or places like Knebworth or Slane. Bands dream of making it big and to be fair most of them work very hard to get the single or album on the radio or downloaded. We all heard stories of the managers, once upon a time, filling the car boot with the band’s 45 rpm singles to increase the climb in the charts. To get on Top of the Pops was the objective of every band. The dream gig for all artists would be to headline big venues and festivals like Glastonbury, the Isle of Wight, Knebworth, Slane, Oxygen, and the Electric Picnic etc. 22 years ago Oasis played two gigs in Knebworth to a quarter of a million people. That’s some going, smaller bands can only dream of that success.
The biggest crowds of all come to see the Pope. Pope John Paul II travelled to more than 100 countries between 1979 and 2005. When John Paul came to town, people wanted to see him and they came to see him in their millions – even in very secular countries. The first pope to travel outside of Italy was Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) and since then, these ‘apostolic voyages’ have cris-crossed all five continents. Imitating the missionary spirit of the first apostles of Jesus Christ, popes want to “Go out and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28) On his first apostolic voyage outside of Italy, Pope Francis offered Mass in the presence of two million young people in Rio de Janiero on Copacabana beach and he opened is homily with that theme.
Pope Francis is coming to Ireland in August. He will be here for the final ceremonies for the World Meeting of the Families. This has been in the planning since September 2015 when the pope announced in Philadelphia that the next World Meeting would be held in Dublin. It has been well reported in the mainstream media that the Ireland that Pope John Paul II came to in September 1979 is not the Ireland that Pope Francis will come to. As a 10-year old, I was among the 1.25 million people at the papal Mass in the Phoenix Park on Sept 29th. Today, according to some commentary, anything less will be a failure. It is estimated the three main papal events will host around 700 thousand people in Croke Park stadium, Knock Shrine, and the Phoenix Park. The only tickets remaining are for the final Mass in the Phoenix Park on Sunday afternoon, August 26th. Like the biggest bands and artists, the tickets were released and have been snapped up for the events over the two days and three locations. The tickets are entirely free. (There are other WMOF events in the RDS, and a seven church pilgrim walk around Dublin city in the days before the pope arrives)
It is a different Ireland than the Ireland of 1979. I’ve heard it said when Pope John Paul flew out from Shannon to Boston on October 2nd the church in Ireland began a slow decline culminating in all the scandals since the resignation of Bishop Eamonn Casey in 1992. The child sexual abuse scandals and the cover-up, and the dreadful treatment of unmarried mothers in the ‘Magdalen Laundries.’, Also the finding of significant quantities of human remains buried in the site of the former mother and baby home in Tuam. The remains belonged to unborn children aged 35 foetal weeks up to two to three years.
A lot of people in Ireland don’t want anything to do with the Church anymore and people in public and private life are saying it loud and clear. In the aftermath of the two referendums, they are also calling for the total separation of church and state. Perhaps this will eventually mean policies to support no more religious (catholic) influence in schools and hospitals/ healthcare. Take all references to God, the Holy Trinity, etc. out of the Constitution and the ending of the Angelus being played on RTE Radio and Television. When the tickets for the papal events were released to be ordered on line, it was reported that people and groups were intending to book tickets and not go to them thus hoping to leave a sizable gap or gaps. Protest pages on social media are generating some traction in trying to get people to deliberately not go to the events.
Many people want to go. Many people remember the carnival atmosphere of those autumn days in 1979. We were all young then and while it’s a different Ireland and we know a lot of bad things happened since then, a lot of good things happened too. Don’t forget that thousands of international pilgrims are coming to the World Meeting of Families from overseas. Diocesan and parish pilgrims will arrive in Ireland in the week from the 21st to the 26th of August. While these events will cost the taxpayer money even though there has been money raised in church collections, the Holy See will be funding the papal trip too. And with all the international pilgrim groups coming, the exchequer should do very well indeed.
Its been nearly forty years since Pope John Paul II, the 264th successor of St Peter, set foot on Irish soil. We look forward to welcoming Pope Francis, the 266th on Saturday morning, August 25th.