Top 10 Croke Park gigs ever (yep, Garth Brooks is in there!)
As Bruce Springsteen gears up for Croke Park dates in May, he joins the elite clique of artists to have topped the bill at the north Dublin venue. Here are some of the most memorable Croke Park dates from across the decades.
1: Take That, 2011
There was something for everyone in Take That's most ambitious production yet: a giant robot that, as the show progressed, rose up and loomed over the audience; a cameo from Robbie Williams, putting a firecracker under the evening with a mini-greatest hits set (having announced his arrival by bungee jumping from the top of the enormous stage).
Early attendees also got to see pop whizzes The Pet Shop Boys : their wry chart music was the perfect appetizer for the bombast to follow.
2: U2, 2009
There's a lot of history between U2 and Croke Park, with the band having initially graced the Northside monolith on their 1987 Joshua Tree tour.
However, there had some unhappy moments in the shadow of the Hogan Stand as well – their opening date of their three night residency in 2005 was notoriously marred by muddy sound.
It all came together exquisitely in 2009, though. Under the future shock ripples of their immediately iconic 'Claw' stage, the band delivered a bravura set.
During Sunday Bloody Sunday the enormous video screen projected images of the brutal putting down of Iran's recent 'Green' revolution – and 80,000 people felt their hair stand on end.
3: Robbie Williams, 2006
Memorable – though not necessarily in a good way. Williams came down with the worst stage fright of his life on the opening night of his European tour.
Later he recalled feeling creepily detached, as if floating above the venue and observing himself from a distance.
There was a proper Spinal Tap moment, too, when he became suspended in a gondola dangling from the light rigging and had to climb down again.
At the end he promised to come back to Dublin and perform for free by way of amends for what he felt was a sub-par turn. He was vaguely true to his word as, several years on, he put on a charity gig at the O2.
4: The Police 2007
In the giddy, gaudy final months of the Celtic Tiger, The Police effortlessly packed Croke Park.
Those in attendance may have had mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was unquestionably a thrill to experience in the flesh timeless MOR anthems such as Message In A Bottle and Walking On The Moon.
Conversely, the performance was endlessly noodling and indulgent – Sting, in particular, appeared to view it as his solemn duty to distend and complicate songs whose chief charm had been their simplicity.
5: Simple Minds 1986
In the days before they were regarded as the poor man's U2, Simple Minds made Croker their own. It was a memorable evening all round with The Waterboys, then at their Fisherman's Blues peak, supporting.
"God is watching the show tonight," Simple Minds' Jim Kerr told the crowd – he sounded like he believed it.
6: One Direction 2014
On paper, a One Direction concert ought to be a stinky, shapeless mess. There is no lavish, Take That style production; as vocalists the quintet are sterlingly competent rather than world beating; unless you're an eight year old waving a Niall Horan flag, their between song goofing can grate.
Nevertheless, the world's biggest boyband have charm by the buckets and, bedded down for three nights at Croker, made the vast venue feel cosy and intimate – a feat beyond most artists.
7: Garth Brooks 1997
The three concerts were only so-so – however, they would prove to have far-reaching consequences.
Brooks enjoyed himself so much that, seeking to relaunch his career 14 years later, decided he would return to the scene of his 1997 triumph.
Five dates were announced and, well, we all know what happened next: a national bru-ha-ha on a scale not witnessed since Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane had a frank exchange of views in Saipan.
8: Billy Joel and Elton John 1998
The chemistry between these two old warhorses of confessional piano pop was palpable; the tunes weren't exactly shoddy either. Joel returned, solo, to Croker in 2006 – without Elton riding shotgun, the performance fell flat.
9: Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2012
A conventional rock gig is difficult to carry off in the wide open spaces of Croke Park – the huge dimensions can drain your music, rendering what felt urgent and vivid on record bland and bloodless.
However, the Chilis know their way around a vast amphitheatre and put manners on Croker with this spirited turn two years ago.
10: Westlife 2012
Is there a better way to say farewell to nearly 20 years in pop than three nights at one of Europe's largest stadiums?
Westlife concerts could be hit and miss: their voices were always dependable but the quartet weren't exactly natural born groovers and their body language sometimes had the aspect of a waxwork effigy.
Still, as the curtains came down, they were visibly overcome with emotion – for fans and band alike this was a send-off to remember.