THE past two weeks have been filled to the brim with talks, live events, art, tours and, of course, music.
However, it wouldn’t be Féile an Phobail without a performance from the Wolfe Tones.
As with recent years, the finale of 2022’s festival saw 10,000 people having the night of their lives in Falls Park, lucky to have snared the fastest-selling tickets in town.
Doors for the event opened at 3pm and while the Tones didn’t get onto stage until 10pm, there were some cracking warm-up acts.
I arrived around 8pm and caught the end of a brilliant set from Glasgow band Shebeen who are one of the top Irish rebel bands on the circuit. Lead singer Alan Quinn got the crowd singing along enthusiastically to some brilliant ballads.
After 10pm, Noel Nagle, Brian Warfield and Tommy Byrne emerged to an ecstatic crowd, and spoke of their love for Belfast and the people of the city.
As with all their concerts, it was over to Brian, the lead songwriter of the band and keen historian, who introduces many of the Wolfe Tones song at a concert.
Brian’s knowledge of the stories behind the tunes and his musical talent is supreme. It was fascinating to hear the many anecdotes behind famous ballads:. How ‘The Foggy Dew’ (the performance of which was incredible) was written by a man from Downpatrick in County Down and how the British national anthem was actually based on an ancient Irish air.
The crowd's enthusiasm peaked for the performance of ‘Come Out Ye Black and Tans’ and also for ‘Oró, Sé do Bheatha 'Bhaile’. Another one for which the crowd went wild was ‘Celtic Symphony’ written by Warfield in 1987 for the centennial of Celtic Football Club.
The most beautiful song of the night was ‘Grace’, a love ballad about the marriage between Joseph Mary Plunkett and Grace Gifford just before Plunkett’s execution for participation in the 1916 Rising. It was described by Brian as the “greatest love song of all time”.
The performance continued with all the classic Wolfe Tones hits and other Irish traditional songs, including, ‘Irish Eyes Are Smiling’, ‘Let the People Sing’ and ‘Some Say The Devil Is Dead’, ‘Sean South from Garryowen’ and ‘A Nation Once Again’. There was even a brilliant singalong rendition of John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’.
A mighty performance of ‘Belfast’ – a song dedicated to the people of our great city – was enthusiastically received.
The Tones stayed on until 1am, this year’s concert running longer in what was another big success and a musical treat for anyone who enjoys their rousing ballads.