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Slane '98,
Slane Castle,
18th August.

The first thing that must be said about Slane '98 is that the set-up exuded quality. The venue is a natural amphitheatre and the sound-system filled the area with perfect sound, that could probably be heard for miles. Added to the digital screens, Slane '98 had the potential to be the champagne and caviar of music festivals. Unfortunately, as the line-up had been unveiled over the previous couple of months, this writers expectations were not high. As such, I was not disappointed.

Junkster kicked it all off at midday with a very tasty heavy techno influenced sound. A barrage of beats and bass matched with guitar distortion and topped with a nice melodic vocal style. Junkster owe quite a debt to Curve and Garbage, but pull it off with style. The one low point was the horribly Cranberries-esque "The Only One" which broke the flow and was completely out of place. Thankfully, they picked it up afterwards and turned out to be surprisingly good for the token Irish band.

James, the Seahorses and Finley Quaye trundled on through the afternoon. Tim Booth's voice annoys me, so I payed little attention. Sit Down? Fuck off!

The Seahorses were harmless - guitar-heavy indie-pop, but barely even diverting.

Finley, on the other hand, seemed like the perfect thing for a sunny Saturday afternoon. His eclectic mix of mellow grooves started out like what was needed to chill out on the grass. But, after 5 minutes he began to irritate and, by the end of the set, he was intolerable.

Robbie Williams hit the stage flying, the boy-toy turned rock-god, belting out "Let Me Entertain You" and splitting his pants in the process. Pure showmanship, but a sign of very bad planning. That track is brilliant live and an absolute bugger to follow. He tried valiantly, "Millenium", the Las' "There She Goes", a short sing-a-long bit of "Hey Jude" and even a heavy metal version of the Take That 'classic' "I Want You Back" (with the new line "Satan Loves You" added). But, none of them had the same impact of the opener. Entertaining? Definitely, but the set-list in reverse would have done the job better.

The Manics appeared with what could be their last ever 'second on the bill' appearance, as chart success was, at that point, just over the horizon. It just goes to prove that popularity and quality do not necessarily go together. The Manics are not the same without Richie, no matter what anyone says, in fact, they're not even that good anymore. The set focused far too much on their last album, the Richie era barely featured. "La Tristessa Durera" and the perennial favourites "Motorcycle Emptiness" and "You Love Us" were pretty much it. The classic "Holy Bible" album didn't even get a look in. The new tracks aired reeked of desperation, the slight techno additions just sounded tired. Even when a fan through a Sartre book on to the stage (a slight reminder of the old days) even the band seemed bored. A pathetic site of a once great band on the downslide, despite their growing popularity.

Finally, the Verve. I still can't see how this band became popular enough to head-line festivals like this. It's not that they're bad, they're just not amazing either. They played the hits, other "Urban Hymns" stuff and a couple of old tracks. All very psychadelic and nice, especially the early Pink Floyd-esque "Come On", and the stage-show was very cool, but it was all far too downbeat for a headline act. The most interesting thing during their set was when people all through the crowd started setting fire to Coke cups. The sight of hundreds, maybe thousands, of blazing torches stretching through the dark, was amazing.

All in all, an unsurprisingly disappointing affair, this really was not a quality festival line-up. I remember the days when things were better, I remember ... (shut up you sad twat - editor) Hang on, I am the editor (shut up anyway, this review's over - ed) OK.

by Donnacha DeLong.