25 June 2005
'It doesn't get any better than this'
It was a beautiful night as U2 returned for their first show in Dublin in four years.
The show may have opened to a blanket of what is known locally as 'soft mist' - umbrellas covering the instuments and technical equipment on stage - but the second the opening chords of Vertigo came blasting out of the speakers all interest in the unseasonal summer weather was forgotten.
'The funky side of town, the north side of Dublin,' exclaimed Bono as the biggest audience on the tour to date, all 82,000 of them, started jumping and jiving - barely stopping for breath all night.
There were fans here tonight from across Ireland - and across the world. Every hotel in the city was booked and flights arriving into the city were jam packed with concertgoers.
'I think that was the third time we have played that ever...' said Bono, as a soaring rendition of Wild Horses came to a close. 'Hope it was to your liking.' At which point Bruce Ramus, Lighting Director, swung a spotlight on a huge banner hanging over a balcony on one of the main stands. Bono read out the greeting:'Welcome home boys... We will see you in Rome next week!'
Cue a momentary meditation on the poet Keats. U2's first show in Dublin since 2001 seemed like a gathering of a huge extended family - and Bono took the moment to thank Adam, Larry and Edge as well as management and crew for 'giving us such a great life'.
Introducing Miracle Drug, he recalled the last time the band had played in this stadium, not twenty years ago but three years ago, a short but special performance at the Special Olympics. It was a sign, he said, of the way that Ireland is about the future, revealing that there were some special guests here tonight from Crumlin Childrens Hospital. 'We want to welcome them,' he added to great cheers, 'This song is for the doctors and nurses, especially the nurses!'
U2's history in their home city also cropped up in the dedication of Running to Stand Still to Aung San Suu Kyi- who was given the Freedom of Dublin on the same day as U2. Last weekend she spent her sixtieth birthday, the elected leader of her people, under house arrest. And for a third night Bono ended the song singing 'Happy Birthday' to the Burmese leader, segueing into a clip of Walk On, the track from the band's last album which was dedicated to her.
By now the show was turning into such a blinder that the rain had completely abandoned its efforts and gone off to dampen other spirits. As the applause rose to greet the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the opening chords of Pride In The Name of Love created total pandemonium - a sea of raised hands and soaring voices. ' A dream when everyone is free and equal under the eyes of God.'
And then there was 'Streets', a song, as Bono said later, that has found a completely new meaning more than twenty y ears after it was written - a song originally inspired by Africa which has found new meaning in Africa in 2005. 'This is our moment, from the charity of the old Live Aid to the justice of the new Live8,from drop the debt to trade justice to make poverty history...the journey of equality GOES ON!'
Well, it's barely worth trying to describe the scenes that followed.'What a beautiful night, beautiful night,' as the singer put it. 'It doesn't get any better than this, this band, this home town and this stadium!'
And the 'phone moment' was still to come. 'WOW!'
It seemed like no time had passed before we had reached the second version of Vertigo and the dazzling end to a memorable homecoming. 'Oh, yes, you look so beautiful tonight...'