8.25.01 - Reuters
By Michael Roddy
SLANE, Ireland (Reuters) - It was a beautiful day, and night too, as Irish supergroup U2 brought its world tour back home on Saturday for an emotion-charged concert before its biggest audience ever in Ireland.
"Thank you so much for coming out," lead singer Bono, whose real name is Paul Hewson, told 80,000 adoring fans packed into a huge field beside Slane Castle on the Boyne River north of Dublin, under clear night skies.
The mostly young audience went wild as the supergroup launched into some of its biggest hits, including "It's a Beautiful Day," "End of the World" and the political "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" about killings in Northern Ireland in 1972.
The most poignant moment came when Bono sang "Kite," a song he has dedicated to his father, Bob Hewson, a retired postal clerk who died on Tuesday after a long illness.
"I want to thank God for taking my old man away from his sickness and his tired old body and giving him a new one," Bono said before launching into the ballad, which includes the lyrics: "Who's to know when the time has come around/ Don't want to see you cry/I know this is not goodbye."
U2's appearance before a stadium-sized crowd in Ireland was its first since 1997. Fans witnessed one of the most emotional and dramatic shows by one of history's biggest rock acts.
Bono, who has used his stardom as a platform to campaign for relief of Third World debt and other international social causes, was clearly moved.
He seemed to get a special charge out of playing for an audience that knew every word and every twist to every song and poured out enthusiasm for the group, together for 25 years.
FOR IRELAND'S YOUTH
Supermodel Naomi Campbell, former Formula One racing driver Eddie Irvine and singer Robbie Williams were among celebrities publicists said attended, but the day and night clearly belonged to the youth of Ireland, who were in a serious mood to celebrate.
"This is absolutely massive, it's the biggest occasion that has happened here for the last 10 or 20 years," said Darren Byrne, 24, a sales representative in a blue-and-white checked "Mad Hatter" style hat who danced along with friends.
Byrne said he had queued all night to buy tickets for the concert, which sold out in 45 minutes.
Jenny Wright, 50, originally of Northern Ireland and a long-time fan, said she'd flown from Portugal just for the show.
"I'm old Ireland," she said, "but this event is for young Ireland, definitely."
Police and first aid crews took precautions to avoid trouble, including anyone drowning while swimming the Boyne to get in, but reported no serious incidents by early evening.
Police made at least 43 drug arrests and confiscated at least 100 forged tickets.
Slane village was effectively closed to all but locals for the day before and the day of the concert, which irritated some.
"It's a nightmare," said Myra Collins, who lives just outside the walls of the 18th-century castle, where U2 recorded its 1984 album, "The Unforgettable Fire."
Other residents, including some with no interest in U2 or pop music, were happy about the concert, which included other major bands such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Coldplay.
"It's grand, it brings a bit of activity," said Bert Gough, 80, a retired textile worker sitting on his front steps across from the castle walls, soaking up the rare Irish sunshine and watching the parade of youth pass by.
U2, which began its "Elevation Tour 2001" in Miami in March, has been on the road most of the time since.
Industry publications reported that even before adding 25 additional U.S. dates, the tour had generated an estimated $142 million worldwide.
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