'We refuse to hate because we know love will do a better job' - U2's homecoming features tributes to the Troubles and war-torn Syria
The uncrowned kings of Ireland, U2, made a victorious homecoming to this island as they played an electrifying sell-out gig in Belfast last night.
Almost 11,000 fans from all over the country and the world descended upon the SSE Airtricity Arena in Belfast from early evening for the band’s first Northern Ireland gig in 18 years.
Shortly after 8.30pm, Bono appeared at the end of the long runway stage, after walking through the crowds, to meet his bandmates Larry Mullen Jnr, The Edge and Adam Clayton at the end.
They wasted no time and got the crowd on their feet almost immediately after they launched into ‘The Miracle of Joey Ramone’, from their current album ‘Songs of Innocence’.
The first half of the show featured a mix of both old and current hits, including ‘The Electric Co’ from their debut album ‘Boy’, and a segment the Dublin born lead singer described as ‘Innocence’, which featured songs about his childhood.
Despite fears and claims from local politicians that it would cause “a riot”, the band included a tribute to the victims of the Troubles, particularly those who died in the 1974 Dublin Monaghan bombings.
Sound effects of the attacks and clips of news bulletins from the time rang through the arena, before images of many of the 34 victims appeared on a large screen during ‘Raised By Wolves’, drawing an emotional reaction from the crowd.
During the show, they also played footage of children playing in a war torn Syria before launching into ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’.
Bono told the crowd that some people in Europe “want hate”.
“What we want is a place called home, so we are safe. A place called home where we refuse to hate because we know love will do a better job,” he added.
They kicked off the three song encore with their 2006 hit song ‘City of Blinding Lights’.
This song also marked the band’s emotional musical tribute to the 129 victims of the Paris terror attack.
A black and white graphic of the Eiffel Tower, accompanied by the words ‘#StrongerThanFear’, appeared on the large screen on stage and was accompanied by images of the French capital.
Hundreds of fans also participated in the ‘White Out Belfast’ campaign which was launched on social media in recent days, by wearing a piece of white clothing to the concert to symbolise peace and unity.
Danish fan Connie Maria Westergaard travelled from Copenhagen for the two Belfast dates and she has been to more than 16 U2 concerts in recent years.
“'Stronger than fear' is part of a lyric from Raised By Wolves on this album. It’s part of a campaign or movement called ‘White Out Belfast’, so basically you go to the concert and you wear or bring something white, so when the band walks on stage you wave it,” she explained.
“You want to be able to go to a concert and not be afraid. It’s not just about Paris, it’s everywhere.”
The band also attracted a number of celebrity fans to this evening's show and Game of Thrones star Aidan Gillen was seen dancing with his wife in the crowd, while it is understood that ‘Harry Potter’ star Emma Watson was also in attendance.