- 24 Nov 15
It was a very special sort of homecoming...
View our full photo gallery by Hot Press snapper Kathrin Baumbach HERE.
The last time U2 played at these map coordinates it was New Year’s Eve 1989 and the gig ended with Bono famously declaring that, “We have to go away and dream it all up again!” That they’ve managed to do so, repeatedly, is evident from the fact that tickets for the first of their 3Arena shows are changing hands on eBay for an eye-watering two grand a pop. This is the big one which fans from all over the world have flown in for including a group of Parisians who get cheers, hugs and handshakes as they walk along the North Wall draped in Tricolores. Bono made it clear when postponing their Paris shows that the attack on the Eagles Of Death Metal gig was an attack on all music fans, which lends even more resonance to these gigs.
The whoops and hollers when the 3Arena lights go down at 8.32pm can probably be heard in Belfast from where they’ve just come. Edge told Hot Press that Songs Of Innocence popping into people’s iTunes has won them a new generation of fans and, while One Direction needn’t worry, there’s a vociferous teenage contingent that I don’t remember being there when the 360 Tour descended six years ago on Croker.
It’s a breakneck start with the obligatory ‘The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)’ mashing into ‘Send In The Clowns’ before ‘The Electric Co.’, ‘Vertigo’ and ‘I Will Follow’ ensure that we well and truly have lift-off.
“Wow, do you know what?” Bono says eventually pausing for breath between songs. “We’ve spent the last nine months travelling the world trying to explain the Northside of Dublin to people. But we don’t have to do that tonight because we’re here. It’s a family affair. Here is where it all started. First loves. First fights in the playground. First losses…”
That’s the cue for ‘Iris’, a celebration of and lament for his beloved Mum which is all the more affecting for being performed on home turf.
I’ve seen the photos, watched nearly as many YouTube clips and had my ear vigorously bent by Olaf Tyaransen, but my gob is still well and truly smacked by the ceiling-high wall of screens, extending from the lip of the stage to the front of circle, which Bono literally climbs into for ‘Cedarwood Road’. An actor in his own childhood memories, it’s a stunning piece of interactive theatre which segues into ‘Song For Someone’ - that someone being “a girl called Alison Stewart who I’m still trying to impress.”
The band were accused in the run-up to their Belfast shows of having a hierarchy of victims, but the visuals accompanying ’Sunday Bloody Sunday’ prove that to be a nonsense, with the suffering of both communities during The Troubles acknowledged.
Documenting the May 17, 1974 bombing that took place less than a mile away, the version of ‘Raised By Wolves’ which follows finds Bono’s voice quivering with emotion.
The big screens literally consume the band during ‘Invisible’ and ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’; there’s a real danger of overkill until the sudden paring down at the end of ‘Mysterious Ways’. Interestingly, the lady plucked from the crowd to shimmy her shammy with Bono during it is a ringer for the young Ali.
‘Elevation’ is iPhoned in courtesy of a nifty piece of handheld technology, after which Larry and Adam leave Bono and The Edge to do the honours on ‘Sweetest Thing’ and ‘Every Breaking Wave’, arguably the most enthusiastically received of tonight’s new songs.
Then comes what me for is the highlight of the show; an ‘October’/‘Bullet The Blue Sky’ double-whammy accompanied by footage of a bombed out Syrian town that looks almost apocalyptic.
After that, the set pretty much choses itself with ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, ‘Pride (In The Name Of Love)’ and ‘With Or Without You’, all of which got an airing at that ’89 Point gig, rolling back the years.
A Tricolore finds its way onto the stage at the end of ‘City Of Blinding Lights’, prompting a half-whispered “Big French kiss…” from Bono before ‘Beautiful Day’ and, naturally, ‘One’ bring the curtain down on a truly memorable show.