'U2 Saves Best To Last' reads the headline in the South Ben Tribune next day, and you have to say that bringing onstage NYC firefighters and police officers during Walk On, a month after the attacks in New York, was an inspired move.
The 11,000 fans, half of them students, packed in tonight, certainly thought so - and from the moment U2 returned to the stage, after 6 weeks off, it was clear that we were in for a blistering set.
The show spanned U2's entire career from early singles like New Years Day to a clutch of hit tracks from All That You Can't Leave Behind. There was a debut airing for the Marvin Gaye classic What's Going On ?, a cover version of which is climbing the Billboard 100 after Bono helped pull together an all-star cast to benefit the fight against AIDS in Africa, as well as victims of September 11.
And also tonight the tour's first full band version of Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For - it is clear the show is one but not the same from the opening track, Beautiful Day, taking the place of Elevation in another first.
The second loudest cheer of the night comes when Bono sings - in New York - 'The Irish have been coming here for years', this being the home of the 'legendary fighting Irish football team'. Sunday Bloody Sunday doesn't feature 'Get Up Stand Up' or 'Johnny Was' tonight, instead Bono raps moodily about 'a state of mind, a state of mind, a state of spirit for peace...'
'Last time that we were in the area here, in Chicago...'(furious jeering)..'I know, I know but it's close! I went home because there was a baby due any minute. Anyway the baby's name is John if you're interested. 'This is a song that was written about having children and all that kind of thing. I thought it was written about my children anyway, sometimes you don't know..this is called Kite.'
Larry and Adam join Bono and Edge at the point of the heart for Angel Of Harlem and the entire audience are singing when Staring At The Sun begins. At which point the vocalist recalls that there are more than those with tickets experiencing the show tonight - there is a worldwide audience too, courtesty of the webcast. 'Edge said the whole universe would be listening, what we discovered this afternoon is there's a whole universe in Notre Dame...'
And then in one of the stranger musical segues in rock and roll history, we move from the internet, via Bad, to 'cockles and mussles, alive, alive oh'. Streets gives way to Still Haven't Found with the audience clapping in time and Bono calling,'Take it to church, that's right we're in a church...'
And suddenly it's Elevation, everyone having forgotten it wasn't played earlier. 'Elevation, jubilation, salvation ...'
And so to the climax of the evening in which Bono pays tribute to rescue workers involved in the September 11th attack. 'So thank you all for coming out and spending your hard earned on a rock show...whose bicycle did I get on today? I borrowed a bike and drove around the campus, was that yours? It was a nickel bike.'
'Also want to thank those of you that supported us on the Drop the Debt campaign. I noticed that the President of the World Bank Jim Wolfhenson came out on Sept 12 or maybe Sept 13 and said you know the roots of this problem are in abject poverty, fanatics live off (this) - their fuel, fuel for their fanaticism is the abject poverty that they live in, so I put a challenge to us that perhaps the only way to really win this war, really win it, is to try and take away that poverty, that's my prayer. 'There's a programme here in Notre Dame, I think it's called the Ace Programme, Father Scully's programme, where people give up two years of their life, they go into an area where people can't get to, just kind of teaching, I would call that changing the world... and I would call getting pharmaceutical companies to drop their intellectual copyright on Aids vaccines and drugs, I would call that changing the world... and I would call letting the poorest of the poorest countries at least trade with Europe and the United States I would call that changing the world.' 'Tonight with us we have people who turn the whole concept of celebrity on it's head... celebrities are supposed to be somebody special, film stars, rock stars, we're celebrities, supposed to be heroes but we're not heroes, we're very selfish people who enjoy what we do thank you very much.... 'But here tonight we have from the fire department in New York City, from the police department of New York City, men and women that came down to catch the U2 show tonight, theirs is the kind of bravery that can truly change the world..so if it's possible to glue these two subjects together, the poverty, these far off places and the bravery of some of the places closer to home, if we could join those two together we might have something....'
'I go on a bit don't I ? ' says Bono and so singing the opening lines of Peace On Earth, U2 are playing Walk On as members of the NYC police and fire department take to the stage to a volcanic reception of gratitude and respect. Bono leads them around the heart-shaped catwalk, they shake hands with fans and are heroes tonight. As the newspaper put it, 'U2 Saves Best To Last.'