Bono and the boys silence doubters with hot show

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The Independent

BELIEVE the hype. Choose joy.

The questions were asked of U2, and they were answered in pretty spectacular fashion at Croke Park last night. Magnificent, if you must.

"I surrender," Bono told the masses as he walked along the outer circle of the famous stage, arms outstretched, wallowing in the adulation early in the evening. He had, in fact, already won us over.

And that was before this stage truly came to life, helping to take the gig to another level entirely after the sun had set. Indeed, starting an hour later may have been advisable. "Look at yourselves," he implored the 80,000.

"Smart, sexy -- in our own way -- undefeatable. Undefeatable."

It takes one to know one, Mr Hewson.

These guys have been under pressure in recent times. The self-styled 'biggest band on the planet' has been struggling, relatively-speaking. They are hardly flavour of the month here in Ireland, partly because of their tax affairs, partly because of our suspicion of success, and partly because, like everything else, they were better in the old days. It meant they didn't sell out 240,000 tickets for Croke Park in an instant. There are suggestions of in-fighting. The latest album was coolly received both here and abroad. The latest tour has had mixed reviews, with one of the shows in Amsterdam earlier this week getting panned by critics and fans alike.

Never mind getting on their boots, perhaps it was time for this lot to hang theirs up?

And so U2 -- one of our biggest success stories -- were left in the slightly-surreal situation of having to prove themselves again. And to their own, and in their own backyard. We should never have doubted them. On this stage there are few who can live with them. We were a little ashamed of ourselves. But we got over it. "I wasn't too sure at the start because I don't have the new album," Alison Crowe said. "But it was good, and then, of course, it just got so much better."

Not surprisingly, the architect was Bono. While apologising to the local residents for the din, four or five songs in, he got to reminiscing. "For all our guests from outta town, and there's a lot of you, this neighbourhood is very emblematic," he said. "It has great doctors and nurses, it has the inmates of Mountjoy prison, and they are all probably listening right now. But it also has the Royal Canal."

Dedicated

Cue a rendition of 'The Auld Triangle' dedicated to Ronnie Drew and the mood changed noticeably. After that it was a simply blistering set. At least from the Hogan Stand it was. From the 'pit', it must have been out of this world.

Many of the fans delayed their arrival at Croker to grab a sneaky last pint before piling into the ground, some taking their places after the band had emerged on to the stage shortly before 9pm.

In truth, those who missed the first four songs won't be kicking themselves too much. Not least because alcohol wasn't an option while inside, but also because it was with 'Beautiful Day' that this gig truly began as the sun set and 'the Claw' came to life.

And it was impressive, although it would obviously have been so much better if fully 'in the round', as we had been promised, but which Croke Park can't deliver.

"Hill 16 is right behind you," as Bono sang later referring to the "rubble of revolution". A pity it was empty, and one of the few disappointments of the night. We ploughed on bravely, however, with the first chords of 'Desire' finally getting those in the seats bouncing freely, rolling back the years while looking at the future. Stadium rock, indeed, with all the pomp and ceremony you could hope for but which we take a little for granted with these guys. It was on an upward trajectory from then until the end. And those who may have been cursing the lack of a pint last night will be glad of the memories they have this morning instead.

Bono kept the preaching to a minimum. He could probably feel the love because of it. But, paradoxically, we wouldn't like it if he ignored the activism completely, and thousands donned a face mask -- inserted in the concert programme -- of Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi.

Hey, we're a tough crowd. But U2 played us expertly. Bono spoke during the week about the "joy" that's inherent in U2's music. Last night was a joy. "This is where we live, we love it," Bono said. "We can criticise our own but anyone else..."

He made a gun sign with his finger and thumb. Call off the assassins.

- Jason O'Brien

U2 set the 'Claw' stage alight with their 360° Tour live performance at Croke Park in Dublin last night.

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This page contains a single entry by Rita published on July 26, 2009 10:22 AM.

Forget swine flu, catch U2 fever was the previous entry in this blog.

TAKING DUBLIN BY STORM: Bono and Larry Mullen Jr belt out another rock anthem last night is the next entry in this blog.

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