POPMART Leg 3: 1997, North America


Dublin Croke Park

Its a beautiful day excepting the weather, of course. The meteorological curse under which U2 have dwelt for much of their career held true to form for the big home coming. After a glorious week of weather in London the Dublin sky remained resolutely, immovably grey and waterlogged for the entire day. Periodic drizzle combined with rising damp to create a suitably grim ambience, but it wasnt enough to subdue the overwhelmingly positive spirit of the day. By the band came in for soundcheck, half of Dublin had already gathered outside Croke Park and by the time the stadium doors were opened the party mood was well under way.

A big homecoming is always going to be a Very Big Gig for any band and even at this stage of their career, U2 are far from immune to the pressure. This time round though, it seemed hard to believe that anything significant was likely to go wrong. It may be the nature of the times were living through, or it may be that finally after 25 years even the most hardened cynics are giving U2 points for effort (or most likely a combination of both) but it did seem that Dublins welcome was as close to unanimous as it could be.

As the day wore on the weather continued to deteriorate, with a fine constant rain installing itself for much of the night. Did this dampen the mood? Not for a moment. Vertigo kicked in and Croke Park took off. Its a great venue, it turns out, and the crowd were so up for it, it was ridiculous. Singing, roaring, jumping up and down. They absolutely rocked the place. The band were delighted with the night and rightly so. It was quite a celebration.

Afterwards there was much celebration and hospitality at various locations around the stadium. The best party turned out to be in and around the steel crews office (you can never predict these things). The largely Belgian steel crew had taken it upon themselves to get in a barrel of Guinness and pile of pizzas, so the rest was easy. Just when you thought it couldnt get any better, Ian, the tour accountant, came round with memos for everybody. Normally a memo isnt anything to celebrate, in fact it usually contains news youd rather not hear, like 'tomorrows day off is canceled as were doing a film shoot'. This one read 'in view of everyones hard work and the poor exchange rate, per diem (the daily allowance for miscellaneous expenses - pocket money, essentially) will now be 50 Euros rather than 50 U.S. dollars, backdated to the start of this leg'. A stunned silence descended and you could see everyone reading the memo several times, or turning it upside down to try to spot the catch. No catch! Pay rise for all! And there was much rejoicing.

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