U2 wow fans at triumphant and intimate homecoming Dublin concert
U2 thrilled fans as band delivers on their promise of a ‘special’ homecoming at the 3Arena on Monday night.
More accustomed to open-air stadiums, the Dublin rockers raised the roof of the quayside venue on the first of four sold out tour dates in their hometown, picking up where they left off in 2015 with the rapturously reviewed Innocence + Experience tour.
More than 14,000 fans, many of whom had travelled to Dublin from all over the world to see U2 play on their home turf, were treated to a powerful opening featuring Noel Gallagher’s 'It’s a Beautiful World' playing out over Charlie Chaplin’s rousing speech from 'The Great Dictator' and visuals of the ruins of war across Europe.
The setlist remained unchanged from their Belfast shows, spanning their four decades on the scene, but drawing most heavily from their most recent album, Songs of Experience, the companion album to 2015’s Songs of Innocence.
Seven of the album’s 13 tracks featured, including show openers 'The Blackout' and 'Lights of Home', which sent fans into a frenzy as the band members appeared within the 102ft screen that divided the arena.
A healthy dose of nostalgia came courtesy of six Achtung Baby tracks from 1991 including 'Even Better Than The Real Thing' and 'Acrobat'.
Having played to huge stadium audiences around the world, including Croke Park with its 82,000 capacity, last year on The Joshua Tree tour, songs from that seminal album were understandably overlooked this time around.
Aside from that tour - a rare, indulgent flashback in time – it’s clear U2 are not a band content to peddle on nostalgia alone.
Tickets for the Dublin dates sold out within five minutes in February, such was the frenzied demand to see the band play a more pared-back gig. This was only the second time in three decades they had played indoors in Ireland and it certainly created a more intimate, old-school rock show experience albeit with cutting edge technology.
Despite the pared-back aesthetic and more intimate venue, the show was no less spectacular visually.
Among the technological advancements on this tour is the addition of the aforementioned screen, The Barricage, which spans the entire length of the 3Arena and allows the band to perform within, under and behind it.
The LED screen is super high res, nine times the resolution of the 2015 screen, and the spectacular visuals are complimented by a state of the art sound system created by Joe O’Herlihy, U2’s longtime Sound Director, which brings fully immersive audio to every seat in the arena.
The stage itself also features the smaller E stage which sits in the middle of the arena floor, increasing the intimacy between band and audience with almost every seat in the house getting up close and personal with Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton for rousing renditions of 'Vertigo', 'Elevation' and 'Even Better than The Real Thing'.
However, it was when the technology retreated and the band performed within the relatively small confines of the E stage in the centre of the arena that you realise why they're one of the greatest bands in the world. They don't need the bells and whistles, just themselves, and their instruments.
Early in the show Bono shared a story about their early days when the band performed at the Baggot Inn. "It was to be our big break before we went broke," he said, adding that executives from a UK based record company came over from London to "put their money where their mouth was, which was at the bar". He said they never turned around to watch the band and they left after three songs.
Throughout the show he charted the history of Europe alongside the history of the band, from these humble beginnings through the Vertigo years, described as "the moment when it all goes to our head".
Speaking about that time he said, "It feeds us a lie, a lie that we so want to believe, that we're much more interesting than our next door neighbours or real heroes like firefighters or teachers or nurses or mothers". His older brother, he said, reminded him that he was his "little brother Paul".
"I said, 'what? Paul? Paul is dead! I don't know you're talking about. I'm f***ing Bono, this is The Edge, this is Larry, Lord Adam Clayton. We are the greatest rock and roll band on the Northside of Dublin!"
Over the course of six months, including the North American run and the European leg, the band has performed for almost one million fans in 30 cities, and received rave reviews across the board.
However, U2 suffered a setback just eight weeks ago on their second date in Berlin when Bono suddenly lost his voice mid-concert, forcing cancellation of the gig.
Recovery was speedy, however, and there were no signs of any lingering vocal issues as Bono belted his way through from the pounding opener to the show’s transcendent close - with 'One' followed by two more Experience songs - 'Love is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way', which he dedicated to President Michael D Higgins and his ‘brilliant partner Sabine’ who were among the audience members, and '13 (There Is A Light)', which he dedicated to U2’s late manager Dennis Sheehan who passed away in 2015.
“I know it's a little early, but for us, Christmas starts on November 5,” said Bono earlier this week and U2 certainly kicked off the festive season with a bang for an adoring home crowd.
U2 play the 3Arena tomorrow night, Tuesday 6, Friday 9, and Saturday 10. All concerts are sold out.
The setlist for the concert was:
Intro - Noel Gallagher / The Great Dictator - Charlie Chaplin
Lights of Home
I Will Follow
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
Even Better Than the Real Thing
You're the Best Thing
Summer of Love
Get Out of Your Own Way
New Year's Day
City of Blinding Lights
Women of the World
Love is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way
13 (There is a Light)