The Boys Are Back In Town.....
U2's return to Slane Castle, twenty years after supporting Thin Lizzy here, was the night to remember that everyone had anticipated. From the pre-show blasting of Thin Lizzy's The Boys Are back In Town onward, there were several nods to history: the band, together at the point of the heart, played part of Thin Lizzy's Dancing in Moonlight before Desire - and a touching sign of more recent history came when the video screens carried images of the late Bob Hewson during One.
The headlines in the Irish press the morning after said it all: '80,000 Find What They Are Looking For - Stuck In A Moment Of History' (Ireland On Sunday) 'Weather Gods Smile At Concert Of The Year' (Sunday Independent); 'What A Beautiful Day' (News Of The World).
And what an ovation when U2 played A Sort of Homecoming, first recorded at Slane during the Unforgettable Fire sessions fifteen years ago - and the first time many could remember hearing the song live.
The weather held out, the support acts - Relish, JJ72, Kelis, Coldplay and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers - received a great reception, the stars came out and U2 held sway. In fact there were times when the enthusiasm of the massive audience was so overpowering that the entire field appeared to be moving as one - notably during Elevation and Streets. (Check latest Willie Diary for more on this.)
'Wow, thank you so much for coming out, thank you,' said Bono after the band opened the show with three uninterrupted tracks. 'I want to thank Relish and JJ72, Kelis and Coldplay and what about the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, how extraordinary is that.
'I want to thank the sun for shining, I want to thank God for taking my old man away from his sickness and his tired old body and giving him a new one... 'And I want to thank uou for your patience, it's taken us 20 years to get to this moment, back at Slane Castle.'
And with thoughts of his dad, 'the last of the opera stars', the singer introduced Kite: 'This is a song I thought I wrote for my kids, but I think this is a song my old man wrote for me and my brother, this is Kite...'
And then A Sort of Homecoming, which it is all day today.
'We wrote this song in the ballroom of that castle up there, thanks for the loan of that castle, Henry...'
During Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bono slips into Marley mode for Get Up, Stand Up, before this impassioned rap: 'Cos people are more valuable than ideas, Irish people are valuable. 'Am I looking good tonight ? Rocking by the river, in our big field, in our big field by the river, in our big field on our small Island, it's not small, if it is small we're bigger than this place, we're bigger than this small island, we're bigger than bigotry, we're bigger than racism, we're bigger than our past. 'I said we're bigger than our past, we're not going back there, we're gonna make this country bigger, big enough to fit anyone who is big enough...'
And as the song closes he notes that it is three years since the bombing of Omagh and he cites the names of some of the dead, 'All those names whose families will be remembering right now...'
Lighters appear, bright stars across the field, when Edge and Bono join to play Wake Up Dead Man, and more seem to be lit when Adam and Larry join them for Stuck In A Moment.
With In A Little While Bono walks slowly down to the point of the heart. 'That's a lot of sleeping bags, how you doing? Are we getting all the way to the back? I hope so, it's loud...'
'It's getting slippy Edge,' he adds, as he slip slides away down the catwalk. 'Watch it down here, could be fun though.'
'This is a good song that Joey Ramone made into a great song, a song written about a hangover that he turned it into something else, a gospel song or something..'
As Edge starts to play, he continues, 'Without the Ramones we never would have really got started with our band, so to have this be the last song that Joey Ramone heard before he passed away, is really something for us...'
And then it is time for introductions.
'Wearing the No. 7 shirt this evening, the Edge, and on the drums the man who started this band - and on a daily basis may finish it - Larry Mullen Jnr... 'The first manager of U2, on the bass, and the poshest member of the band, a man made for a castle, Adam Clayton, alright.'
And as the audience cheer their band, Bono continues his wander down memory lane.
'When we started off Thin Lizzy were like... it was just unimaginable that we might be playing here headlining Slane Castle. 'And we played on this stage with Thin Lizzy 20 years ago and we were crap actually, really, really crap it just wasn't going off for us and Thin Lizzy were like magic that night and I still miss Phil Lynott, beautiful man. 'I met a woman who says they want to put a statue up in Dublin City to Phil Lynott, his mother's here tonight, that's the least we can do for Philip Lynott, what do you say Bertie ?'
The Irish Premier Bertie Ahern is here tonight, but no-one catches his reply to Bono's question, such is the ovation that arrives to an unexpected rendition of Thin Lizzy's Dancing In The Moonlight.
'We do weddings as well...'
Desire is followed by Staring At The Sun and Bad which includes reference to both Fool To Cry (Rolling Stones) and Yellow (Coldplay) and finishes with another twenty year old cry - how long to sing this song.
Ronan Keating, Guggi, Gavin Friday, John Rocha, Natalie Imbruglia, Samantha Mumba, Woody Harrelson are just some of the famous faces in the house tonight and, to a man and woman, 80,000 people go crazy as the unforgettable opening chords of Where The Streets Have No Name begin thunder out of the sound system.
'I want to dance, even it rains...'
Mysterious Ways and Pride close the first part of the show, 'Thank you for coming all the way out here, for giving us your love, thank you, God bless you, thank you for coming.'
Charlton Heston hits the screen in the interval, explaining his take on guns for good people and bad people and, as Bullet The Blue Sky signals U2's return, it is clear he has not persuaded them. The song features Bono's chilling Mark Chapman cameo, along with another impassioned plea: 'Gonna put away the guns, throw down the guns, IRA, UVF, British Army, Irish Army, UDA, Provos, Real IRA, UDA, Real IRA, Real IRA...' as the song closes.
As One opens, Bono offers a longer than usual introduction.
'So again, for those of you who waited in the rain and queues around this country just want to thank you for giving us a great life, had an amazing time over the last years and we're not going away right now. 'Again I want to thank my father for giving me the voice that I'm speaking to you with, the voice that I'm singing with and my father will be alive in me and my children and my childrens children as the line goes on. 'My father really believed in the responsibility of the first world to the third world so called, he believed that the Drop The Debt campaign was a really important thing for us to be a part of and he believed that Irish people should never forget that they were refugees and they starved and choked eating grass and all that shit. 'So I want to tell you that we're going to go on with that campaign and we'll take it to the streets if we have to and at the next G8 summit we'll go to the streets there too and it won't be with petrol bombs or batons or rubber bullets but with an argument, an irrefutable argument that people deserve their dignity and that an African life is worth the same as a European life or an American life - not just civil rights, human rights, the right to live like a human. 'If I learnt anything from my father I learnt that...'
And as One begins, it is accompanied by the Anton Corbijn directed video which features Bob Hewson and at the end it reads, 'Bob Hewson 1925-2001'.
'When Will I See You Again' sings Bono, closing an epic evening with Walk On.
'Bob Hewson, walk on......'