Concert hits high notes in becoming a call to arms
Main picture, top: President Obama with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at College Green last night; above, Dublin singer Imelda May entertains the crowd yesterday and rugby hero Brian O'Driscoll with the Heineken Cup. Paddy Cummins/Collins
THE tens of thousands of people who crammed into College Green in Dublin experienced all four seasons in the space of a few hours.
The crowd stretched back up Dame Street as far as the eye could see as they waited to give the 44th President of the United States the welcome of a lifetime.
Entitled 'Is Féidir Linn/Yes We Can', the concert had been billed as a celebration of Irish music, film and sport but rapidly turned into a call to arms to the nation.
Ireland's music acts had been expected to be provide the perfect warm-up act for Mr Obama but throughout the afternoon it was those introducing them who stole the show.
They included actor Brendan Gleeson, who whipped the crowd into such a patriotic frenzy that he was in danger of upstaging the act he was there to introduce, Monaghan singer Ryan Sheridan.
Another poignant address came from actor Stephen Rea, who, introducing Liberties singer Imelda May, recited a WB Yeats poem: "I am of Ireland to all of those Irish people who had to emigrate over the years. We hope it will not be too long before these people, or their children, return to dance with us in Ireland."
RTE commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh had been another star turn, bringing Irish sporting heroes, including Robbie Keane, Katie Taylor, 'King' Henry Shefflin, Padraig Harrington and Brian O'Driscoll, fresh from Leinster's Heineken Cup victory, to an ecstatic crowd.
Introducing Dublin band The Coronas, Wicklow resident Daniel Day-Lewis, welcomed Mr Obama saying: "Mr President, wheresoever your foot treads upon this great Earth of ours, I wish you a welcome as brimful of affection and welcomeness as that which we offer you today."
He then went to quote Abraham Lincoln, whom he will shortly play in a Stephen Spielberg film.
Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan, seemed to be making an early bid for the White House, when she revealed to the crowd she had an American passport and that she could "technically end up in the White House myself some day".
Remarking that "every now and again something comes along which seems to somehow lift the spirit of the entire nation", she then introduced pop twins Jedward.
Fresh from their scene-stealing appearance at Eurovision, the Lucan twins were one of the most exciting musical turns of the day turning cartwheels on the blue-carpeted stage during their song 'Lipstick'.
"They must been using double strength hair gel to keep that hair in place," remarked one garda as the high winds in College Green failed to flatten the twins' sticky-up haircuts.
However, the two 19-year-olds nearly didn't make the concert after their flight from Heathrow was delayed by the same adverse weather conditions.
But the hyperactive duo made it in time to deliver a typically energetic performance.
"We're very excited, it's an honour to perform for the most famous man in the world, after Simon Cowell that is," the twins joked before bounding onto the stage.
Rounding off the afternoon were Westlife. Kian Egan told the crowd "it was a very big honour to be singing for the president. The other day we sang for the queen and here we are again today. What an amazing week it has been for Ireland, and we're very proud to be Irish."
Then to chants of 'Obama, Obama', the President of the United States took to the stage, introduced by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Introducing himself as: "Barack Obama, of the Moneygall O'Bamas," the president went on to joke: "I am here to find the apostrophe that we lost along the way".
"Tá áthas orm a bheith in Éirinn."
And the 40,000 people who gathered to welcome him in College Green were quite prepared to help him find it.
Irish Independent Supplement