14 July 2005
'Welcome home U2'
'Where's the bass man? Adam Clayton!' Right there where he should be. 'Unos, dos, tres...catorce!'
Apart from Dublin, Amsterdam is the only city on the European leg to get three shows and right from the off last night it was clear that the band retain a special place in their hearts for the Dutch. Maybe, as they say, the most important relationships are formed early, which might explain Bono's introduction to I Will Follow.
'Our first No.1 anywhere in the world... in this great, extraordinary land, Holland.'
As a young band, a quarter century ago, why wouldn't you remember the first time you got to No.1. No wonder, as Bono smiles, two and a half hours later, 'Welcome home U2!'
Needless to say, 50,000 Dutch fans are mad for it, even if the Amsterdam Arena, with its huge glass roof, takes forever to get dark. And even though it is unbelievably warm.
'I want to thank The Kaiser Chiefs and The Killers,' says the singer, as Edge heads to the keyboard for New Year's Day. 'Two great rock'n'roll bands.' (Both band played fiercely energetic sets earlier, even though most Dutch fans seem more bemused than familiar with their music.)
New Year's Day, Beautiful Day and I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For seem to shake the foundations of the building, with everyone in the house on their feet and straining to join in with every word.
'We want to say so much tonight,' explains Bono, almost lost for words at times. 'Most of all we want to thank you for giving us a great life.' The Netherlands, he continues, is a 'place that still plays us on the radio, still wants to see us in your football stadiums' a place that still sees U2 as 'about the present.'
And right now, the present is frozen for all time for one young woman as she scrambles up on stage for her date with destiny and the smooch of a lifetime in All I Want Is You. 'Blessings, blessings... in the Port of Amsterdam.' adds Bono as City of Blinding Lights fades out and Edge begins picks out the unmistakeable opening riff of Miracle Drug which is dedicated, to great cheers, to 'the scientists, doctors, nurses - especially the nurses - that keep us well, that get us to the future.'
As Larry leaves his kit to head to the foot of one of the b-stages, Adam saunters down to the tip of the other and it's time for a spot of Love and Peace. The sequence of tracks this kicks off - Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet The Blue Sky and Running to Stand Still - have seemed to gain poignancy and potency in the days subsequent to the bombs in London last week. There is added relevance tonight as Holland has been gripped by the murder trial of another religious extremist and tonight Bono dedicates Running To Stand still to film-maker Theo van Gogh.
'We'd like to turn this song into a prayer, we'd like to remind the religious people, Jewish, Christian, Moslem, that we all come from Father Abraham, all three are Abrahamic , so this is a family feud, a family fight.. and it must stop. We have so much more in common...'
The roars of appreciation are deafening.
'The prayer is that we don't become a monster in order to defeat a monster.' The harmonica to introduce Running To Stand Still, rising eerily through the stadium, also speaks volumes as does another spontaneous rendition of the hymn Amazing Grace which closes the track as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights begins climbing up the screens.
Pride, Streets and One prove climactic as ever but - maybe it is the peculiar acoustics in this building - the cacophony demanding an encore at the end seems to be louder than at any date on the tour so far. Whistles, screams, yelling, it is an unrelenting block of noise which is rewarded with Zoo Station and The Fly before the biggest singalong of the night for With Or Without You.
As well as dropping into Dutch regularly tonight, there is still time for a special Happy Birthday to the oldest Dutch friend of the band who is in the audience tonight - photographer Anton Corbijn.
A hot first night in Holland - with two more to come.