U2 back in town: Rowdy homecoming is a trip down memory lane
Published 24/11/2015 | 06:00
"Hello Dublin, we're a band called U2, formerly The Hype," the lead singer introduced himself, in one of the most totally unnecessary introductions in the history of Irish rock.
The roars rattled the roof of the 3 Arena last night as U2 stormed onstage for the first of four sold-out dates in their home town. And if The Hype was the first name of this band, it was also precisely what had surrounded their much-anticipated homecoming. Hen's teeth were two-a-penny, compared to tickets for this quartet of indoor concerts.
From just after 8.30pm when Bono strolled down the long catwalk which ran the length of the venue, the crowd were on their feet. Old classics from the band's prodigious back catalogue or new material, the fans knew them all. And showing no sign of suffering after-effects of his bad bicycle crash in Manhattan almost exactly a year ago, he got straight down to rowdy business with 'Joey Ramone', Electric Co' and 'Vertigo'.
Unsurprisingly it was the classics that got the crowd rocking, such as a no-frills 'I Will Follow' which still sounds fresh as a rock and roll daisy, considering it dates back to 1980 when records were still black roundy yokes.
The singer eventually paused to take a breath. "Do you know what?" asked Bono.
"What?" obligingly asked the crowd.
Bono explained: "This is truly a family get-together, dysfunctional as we may be," before launching on a touching trip down his own memory lane with 'Iris', a song dedicated to his mother who died when he was 14-years-old. It was - by the standards of the band - an 'intimate' concert, with a capacity crowd of 14,000. The 56,000 tickets were snapped up in less than an hour, with fans eager to see the band at unusually close quarters instead of in front of a stadium-sized crowd of 80,000 at Croke Park.
The 'Innocence + Experience' tour is a markedly different show to U2's trademark dizzyingly towering sets and high-tech backdrops. The stage had a stripped-back look to it, but this was a show where playing rock took precedence over pyrotechnics.
There was no doubt this was a special occasion - it was U2's first indoors show in Dublin for 26 years since they played in the same venue - then the plain Point Depot - on the 'Rattle + Hum' tour in December 1989. And judging by the age of many of the audience, a few of them probably still have the headbands from that gig.
However it was a fitting venue for the band to showcase their latest album, 'Songs of Innocence', which is the most personal record the band have produced to date.
The band dipped into songs from every decade: 'She Moves in Mysterious Ways', 'Desire', 'Pride', 'City of Blinding Lights' as well as several songs from their latest album. But there were other familiar set-pieces - during 'Mysterious Ways', a female fan joined Bono onstage for a bit of a bop. In a new twist, the fan, Josie from California was given a camera to film the crowd during a rowdy version of 'Elevation'.
There was humour as well as rock and politics. "I'm glad to see the missus is in the house," said Bono, before launching into 'The Sweetest Thing'. "My first love ended up my last love," he said.
This being U2, there was sobering footage of war as the band tore into 'Bullet the Blue Sky', a staple of live gigs since 1987 underlining just how the theatres of conflict may change but the bloodshed remains the same.
But maybe wisdom has been acquired by Bono over the years.
The bombastic speeches of the grandiose old days were left to the side of the stage, and the music was allowed to speak for itself. And speak it did, with eloquence and power.
It showed the kids, who weren't even born when 'Boy' came out of nowhere and changed Irish music forever, how a big venue can sound like the Baggot Inn (ask your rock dad or mam).
Of course this being Ireland, not everyone was impressed.
During one song as 3D images of his old home on the northside were projected above the crowd, a decidedly Dublin voice roared out: "You live on the southside, for f*** sake, Bono". Typical. An artist is never appreciated by everyone in his own country.