U2's 'Vertigo//2005' Tour kicked off to a rapturous reception in San Diego tonight.
After a blistering opening set from Kings of Leon, finally, three and a half years after the end of the Elevation Tour, U2 hit the stage again in San Diego tonight.
As a series of different voices intoned through the PA, 'Everyone, everyone, everyone...' suddenly the opening chords of City of Blinding Lights alerted the capacity crowd to the arrival of the band.
At the same time the back and sides of the stage were surrounded by a breathtaking curtain of lights, a series of great neon skyscrapers falling from the rigging high above. And with Adam, Larry and Edge at their positions on an incredibly simple, stripped-back stage set, Bono emerged, almost unnoticed, way down at the tip of the new 'elipse' shaped catwalk.
"The more you see, the less you know..." he sang, and the tour was underway.
Vertigo, a second song from the latest album followed to a tumultous reception as Bono called out 'Hello, hello, we're in San Diego!'
Then, almost as if they had been written yesterday, the band played a clutch of tracks from their very first album.
'Wanna go back, wanna go back, wanna go back to where it started for us.' said Bono, before U2 ripped into Cry/Electric Co., An Cat Dubh and Into the Heart from way back in the late 1970's.
Already Willie Williams' stunning new show design was catching every breath - not least for fans with seated tickets who were the only ones who could see that the stage floor itself was embedded with lights, periodically hosting racing contests between different series of coloured illuminations. (You had to be there... as many of you will be sometime this year.)
In fact it turned out to be a show full of surprises. When was the last time in the same show that we saw Larry on keyboards, Adam on guitar, Edge on bass and Bono on drums ? Did we ever ? (Let us know, if you think so.)
'Thanks for waiting for us, thanks for waiting in line for tickets,' explained Bono in the break after New Year's Day. 'It's a great night that we made it here, we didn't know that we would... it's a miracle.'
Cue Miracle Drug followed by Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own ('My father Bob would love to have been in showbiz...'). As he sang, three huge panels of blue light fell around the stage, the centre one featuring the startlingly elegant figure of a strolling man - a piece drawn from the work of the British artist Julian Opie.
Any hint of peace and harmony was shattered with the arrival of a trilogy of 'war' songs, opening with the filthy guitar chords of Love and Peace which featured Larry on a single drum and cymbal at the tip of the catwalk and ended with a bandana-wearing Bono completing the drumming himself. The stage swathed in a red mist, Sunday Bloody Sunday was followed seamlessly by Bullet The Blue Sky in which a gigantic blue fighter plane flew ominously across the back of the stage. The sense of threat in the atmosphere was amplified as the song finished with Bono, now blindfolded and on his knees, singing a line from the 2002 hit The Hands That Built America, interspersed with 'Johnny Come Marching Home'.
Another production innovation came with the emergence of two huge billowing clouds of smoke at each side of the stage, as the Declaration of Human Rights scrolled down the main stage-wide screens on top of the set. Depending on where you were sitting, if you looked at the clouds you could see the face of a woman within them, reciting the Declaration.
Edge appeared out of the smoke with the opening chords of Zoo Station before - with a cry of 'He's back' - the return of The Fly, complete with gigantic slices of random text and phrase splattered across the light curtains.
'Martin Luther King had a dream,' explained Bono, as the band lowered the temperature during the end of Pride in the Name of Love.
'He wasn't just talking about the American dream.
His dream was even bigger than that.
It was a dream big enough to fit the whole world.
It was a dream where everyone was equal under the eyes of God...
As Pride segued into Where the Streets Have No Name, Bono subtly drew comparison between the civil rights campaign led by Dr Luther King in 1960's America and the human rights campaign to fight poverty in modern day Africa.
'From Dr King's America to Nelson Mandela's Africa...' he said, introducing a new American campaign to recruit one million Americans to work together to make poverty history. (More on the ONE campaign here http://www.one.org/ )
Then it was straight into a rip-roaring version of All Because of You, the fifth, but not last track from the new album. Barely leaving the stage for their final encore, Yahweh arrived featuring 'the multi-instrumentalist Larry Mullen' as drummer took his place before the keyboard.
If U2 opened their new tour with tracks spanning nearly three decades, they closed it with tracks spanning two.
'We haven't played this one since 1983' said Bono, but everyone knew what it was because Adam had strapped on the guitar and Edge was holding the bass.
'I will sing, sing a new song,' sang Bono, and on the first night of a nine-month tour they had sung new songs which are already so well known that they went down as well as any of the old songs.
Wonder what the set list will be like at the next show!
WERE YOU AT THE FIRST SHOW TONIGHT ? Read what other fans who were at the show thought about it here in Zootopia - and add your own comments.