In all my time writing this blog and living in Ireland, I’ve never really talked about what there is to do in Dublin. Last year, I started writing more about the places I go and what I’ve bought there and all that.
I’ve been to Dublin a bunch of times and I’ve taken it for granted. It’s not so far away from me, but it’s not so close that I’m there all the time. I won’t talk about everything there is to do in Dublin, but I will talk about the fun day I had yesterday.
I saw Steven Wilson in Chicago once before and it was one of my favourite concerts ever so I knew I had to go again in Dublin.
Over the past weekend, there was the St Patrick’s Day Festival. In Dublin, they won’t just celebrate on the day, they have celebrations all weekend. Why not? It makes money. Some people may ask me why I never go to Dublin for St Paddy’s Day. Well, for starters, it’s too crowded, super touristy, and the weather is usually not that good. I’ve also heard horror stories about people being pickpocketed and being stranded since they don’t have their wallet.
Last year, I marched in the local St Patrick’s Day parade as part of a group of international students. It was cold and rainy and we were wearing school shirts that no one could see because we had coats on over them. Parades are basically one of those things. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. After the parade, lots of people get drunk and I get annoyed with their antics. It’s really funny when people think St Patrick’s Day is some sort of sacred holiday in Ireland. Nope!
On the bright side, the decorations are fun to take pictures of.
My husband joked that he was the only sober Irishman in the country that day. This year, I stayed at home and did nothing and I was happier about that. Even happier because I moved out of my old poorly-built student house (complete with thin walls) and into a much nicer home in a quieter neighbourhood.
Our day in Dublin
Whenever I go to a concert in Dublin, I don’t just go up there for the concert. No, that’s no way to live. I’m buying the bus fare, I’m going to take advantage of the whole day and check out shops we don’t have back home, look at some touristy landmarks, and eat a nice dinner. Well, whenever I do that, I end up having a lot of time to kill.
The nice thing about Dublin is most of the things tourists want to see are in a small enough, compact area. You can walk from the Spire to Stephen’s Green in 20 minutes. In between, there’s Temple Bar, Trinity College, and Grafton Street. There are a few places outside you might want to take a bus to and there are lots of nice day trips. Personally, I love Wicklow, check out The Happy Pear, which is in Greystones and easily accessible by train from Dublin.
Also, if you’re going to Dublin, book a day trip to Wicklow Mountains National Park and Glendalough. Check out the pictures below of my trip there:
My first stop was going to Lush and department stores to look at makeup that I saw online, but wasn’t sure about buying. We don’t have a Lush nearby so Dublin is my chance to go there. I had five clean pots so I traded them in for a face mask. I always get the same face mask, Cupcake. I love how it smells like chocolate and it works well for my skin. I also bought my favourite face cleanser, Let The Good Times Roll. It’s one of those products that I can call a holy grail. You use a pea-sized amount, mix it with water, and a small container of it can last a few months.
My favourite Lush products
Afterwards, I checked out the Kat Von D and Too Faced counters at Debenhams. Saw some cool things I wanted – the Everlasting Glimmer Veil (which is way overpriced on this side of the Atlantic), Shade and Light contour palette, that Life’s a Festival palette, but I have enough makeup already and what I have can create looks for days. I can wait until I hit pan on a few things.
Next, I went across the river to go vintage clothing shopping. But first, let me take a picture in front of this hippie bus.
I always look so angry in pictures, but I promise I was happy to see this hippie bus
My favourite vintage clothing store in Dublin is Lucy’s Lounge. I stop there often when I go to Dublin. The prices are reasonable too, which is nice. I also like that they have a good amount of dresses from the 60s and 70s. That’s getting a bit rare now because vintage shops are now dominated by the 80s and 90s, and I think I’m even seeing early 2000s stuff.
After that, my husband and I decided to stop at McDonalds because he wanted to try the limited time only Shamrock Shake. He liked it and we also liked that this McDonalds had plenty of plugs for charging electronics. With a long bus ride, that means we arrive in Dublin with our phone charge depleted by 20-50%.
Then we went to the Grafton Street Brown Thomas, basically the Harrod’s of Ireland, except it’s definitely not at Harrod’s level, but it’s the top department store in the country. We walked around and ridiculed the ostentatious clothing, particularly the shoes. I seriously don’t understand why people pay so much money for such ugly shoes.
As for the clothing, how do you spend €5000 on a jacket from Chanel? I don’t think I’ve spent that much money on clothing in the past decade.
The last stop before food was Free Bird Records/Secret Book and Record Store, since it’s just a couple of doors away from the restaurant. The first time I went there to buy Temples’ Volcano, I nearly missed it because it doesn’t have a huge sign, just a low key sandwich board sign. Walking in there, you’ll see a cool collage of rock stars and then you get to the books section.
Does this sum up my music taste? Yes!
I went to the music side of the store, but I didn’t buy anything. Not as much motivation to buy records because I still don’t have a good record player. As I left the store, I saw this book, Gear Guide 1967, on sale for €3. I had to buy it.
Can this book take me to London in 1967 please?
Food, Glorious Food
One of my favourite places to go in Dublin for food is Cornucopia Whole Foods. It’s a vegetarian restaurant that is centred around healthy eating. Most of the food here is vegan, which is amazing. I’ve been there a few times before, but my husband hasn’t been here before.
The menu changes every day and you can pick from a selection of entrees, soups, and salads. I went for the stir fry with a side of salad and my husband went for a soup and selection of salads. I also got a vegan chocolate ice cream because I had to. While the restaurant is a bit pricey, the portions were huge and we both loved the food.
My husband recently went vegetarian and he said he would definitely come back.
Below is a picture of what we ordered:
“Can I eat now?”
Yes! It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the concert. The show was in the historic Olympia Theatre. Steven Wilson has never played in Dublin before with his current band, so Dublin Steven Wilson fans had to travel for his previous tours.
As you can expect from Steven Wilson, he is an artist and not a performer, so his shows are more than just music, there are visuals. Beginning the show, was a short film called “Truth”, which was a slideshow of pictures with words on them which are themes of the songs in the setlist. You can tell that the songs were going be political and come back to the idea of truth. Songs in the setlist span his career from the late 90s with the band Porcupine Tree to the present with the album, To The Bone.
I first saw Steven Wilson on the Hand Cannot Erase tour and he was amazing. The show was a real treat because Ninet was touring with him. I absolutely love the album Hand Cannot Erase, it’s my favourite of his. I love how it has a story and concept behind it and it’s definitely one of those albums, while it is a sad one, I listen to to make myself feel better. I loved how he played the album from start to finish as the first part of his set.
I was looking forward to To The Bone and I was hoping for it to be played from start to finish because it is one of those albums I can listen to from start to finish. However, I was happy enough with the setlist, even though I heard a good few of the songs the first time in Chicago. There were many strong enough moments that I felt that it was absolutely worth going to.
The setlist opened with “Nowhere Now” from the latest album. I like the song a lot, but it’s one of those that I love the second part with the instrumental more. The second song was one of my favourites from the album, “Pariah”. Because Ninet is not on this tour, Steven did a duet with a video and audio recording of Ninet.
The visuals were lovely and there were such beautiful colours, reminding me of Holi. “Pariah” is a song that I find so relatable because I have had depression since childhood and it is like sadness in the Pixar movie Inside Out, sadness touches memories and adds a sad element to them, no matter how good of a memory it was. It doesn’t matter if life is going great, I’m depressed in spite of all that.
The song tells the story of someone that is suffering and how everyone labels them as a freak and doesn’t care. When you find that no one cares about you, you withdraw and become distant and it’s a vicious cycle. I can tell you, that’s a good bit of what my life is like. The song lyric that resonates the most with me is “I’m tired of Facebook, tired of my failing health. I’m tired of everyone and that includes myself”.
The next songs were the medley, “Home Invasion/Regret #9” from Hand Cannot Erase. This is easily one of my favourites from that album and it reminds me a lot of Rush. The live performance features Steven Wilson’s trademark pointing at the audience during the instrumental jam. The best part of “Regret #9” was Nick Beggs (of Kajagoogoo fame) Chapman Stick playing.
Throughout the show, Steven Wilson spoke to the audience and you could really hear his personality coming through with his sarcastic jokes and sense of humour.
Since he had never come to Dublin before solo he changed up the setlist, instead of playing “Arriving Somewhere, But Not Here”, he played “Don’t Hate Me” and instead of playing “Sign ‘O’ The Times”, he played “The Sound of Muzak”, which are both excellent songs that were a pleasure to hear again. A few fans at the Dublin show were at his Belfast show, so he wanted to make it worth their while.
Admittedly, I listen to more of Steven Wilson’s solo music than his work with Porcupine Tree, but I really liked “The Creator Has a Mastertape” and I thought the rhythm section was on point as always.
The first set may have looked short, but you have to remember with prog rock, songs are longer than average. The set finished nicely with the angry “People Who Eat Darkness” and a little throwback to Hand Cannot Erase, “Ancestral”.
Before Steven Wilson played “People Who Eat Darkness” he talked about his new guitar and how it inspired the latest album (and that song particularly) because of its sound and addressed the misconception of him being a musician first. Primarily, he describes himself as a songwriter and producer; one who didn’t think much about the tools he used to write about his songs until he bought this 1963 custom Fender Telecaster. He said he loved the naturally angry tone of it.
My husband hasn’t listened to much Steven Wilson, but he said this was his favourite moment of the concert. My husband is a fan of punk music so that might explain things.
During the 15 minute intermission, I went to the merch stand and bought a shirt and a signed copy of To The Bone. I love collecting concert shirts and I love having signed albums. So I guess I did break my moratorium on buying records until I have a good record player. I couldn’t resist.
Vinyl and tour shirt.
The second half of the concert had some amazing moments, but the most amazing was “Permanating” – easily my favourite on To The Bone. People have some strong opinions about it; they either love it or hate it.
“Permanating” is a song that is unlike anything Steven Wilson has done in the past. It’s happy and poppy, which defies the audience’s expectations. That’s always been his aim, though. He takes influences from all sorts of places. While I loves prog rock and metal, and you’ll see that a lot in his Headphone Dust playlists, he also loves older pop music and grew up on The Carpenters, ABBA, The Bee Gees, and Donna Summer.
In fact, before he played “Permanating”, he went on this rant about how “pop” isn’t a dirty word in music and how “pop” isn’t all Justin Bieber or whatever kids listen to today. What do The Beatles, ABBA, Prince, and Michael Jackson have in common? They fall under the pop umbrella. Even Prince, who loved to experiment and try new things in his music.
Steven Wilson asked the audience to stand up and disco dance and clap along to “Permanating”. He said to anyone who was grumbling, like any pop song, it’s only three minutes.
The next great moment in the concert was “Lazarus”. I remember him playing this the last time and talking about the coincidences with David Bowie (another Steven Wilson favourite).
The last song he played from To The Bone was “Detonation”, and I loved the jazz influences in it.
Steven Wilson mentioned the pop influences in his very hard rock song “The Same Asylum As Before”. His falsetto delivery in the song was totally inspired by Prince, who passed away back in April 2016. In the months following his death, Steven Wilson was writing songs for To The Bone and he took inspiration from Prince for this song. He described Prince as his idol, and humorously admitted that his falsetto is nothing like Prince’s, but then again, he’s not a black guy from Minneapolis, he’s a white guy from England.
The instrumental “Vermillioncore” was my other favourite moment in this concert and I loved how Steven Wilson interacted with his band. It really looks like they’re having a lot of fun. The bass in that song though.
He played three songs in the encore and in typical Steven Wilson fashion, he ended with a sombre song, “The Raven That Refused to Sing”. I nearly teared up. It’s one of the few songs that can manage to do that to me. The other one is another one of his songs, “Routine”.
Looking at the previous set lists, I was hoping he would play “Sign ‘O’ The Times”, but I am happy to hear an all original song setlist.
The show was a little over two hours, which is excellent. Would I see him a third time? Why not?
Let me know what you think in the comments section below. Feel free to share your thoughts and ask questions. 😃
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Great review. I was there last night too. It was my first time seeing him live, even though I’ve been a fan of PT since hearing IN Absentia in early 2005. I had an absolutely wonderful time. Apart from the moments you mentioned, I also loved this…
SW: “No, I’m not playing Voyage 34 either. Besides, it’s only…” *plays a few notes* “… repeated for 30 minutes, so that should satisfy you.” LOL
Hopefully he will return again soon, and this will lead to more prog bands play here. I would love to see IQ. 🙂
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Prog is really an under appreciated subgenre of rock. I haven’t heard of IQ, but I definitely will listen to them.
They’re really good. Best place to start is probably their most recent album ‘The Road Of Bones’ (get the 2 disc version if you can, as there are some really good tunes on disc 2), followed by Subterranea. Both are really good.
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