By Eamon Sweeney
WITH such gargantuan amounts of hype, it's very easy to forget that this is a concert.
It's little wonder that U2 only play their home town every four years. If this was an annual bash both the band and audience would be completely burnt out from sheer exhaustion and over-exposure.
Former Artane Boys Band member Larry Mullen leads the band onstage and it's a stirring sight. They audaciously begin with four songs from the much maligned 'No Line on the Horizon' album. 'Breathe' is an unexpected and effective opener, although 'Get On Your Boots' is still an underwhelming and bloated lead single.
'Magnificent' is easily their best recent song and a soaring guitar solo from the Edge provides the night's first sweet moment.
The much discussed claw is an eye-boggling sight, but the most pleasing feature is that the quadrophonic sound system ensures the power of U2 in full flight is not deterred by Croker's dodgy acoustics.
As it gets darker, this huge glowing structure comes alive for 'The Unforgettable Fire' and a rivetting 'City of Blinding Lights'.
The intro to 'Beautiful Day' is elongated into a dreamy sequence by the Edge, as Bono sprinkles in a few snippets of 'Here Comes the Sun'.
"No rain!" he excitedly exclaims. Of course, the rain did choose to make an appearance, but not enough to dampen 80,000 spirits deliriously high on emotion.
There's a powerful sense of catharsis in an Irish U2 show in 2009. "This band is just getting started," remarks Bono. "Like this country -- just getting started."
'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' is simultaneously a joyous celebration and a rousing call to persevere.
An unexpected highlight is not a seasoned old U2 anthem, but a bewildering and brilliant dance version of the new track, 'I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight'. This pulverising reinvention raises the question, if the band did more material in this vein, would their latest album have received such a critical mauling.
The grand gestures you'd expect from a U2 show -- a live video link up with a space station, a pre-recorded message from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and masks of Aung San Suu Kyi, are all present, but compared to previous tours they don't hog the show.
Bono's speech-making is kept to minimum and the main focus is clearly on delivering a far superior set to the last Croker outings in 2005.
If you strip away the extravagant bells and whistles and the colossal stage, you're left with cracking four piece rock band from the northside of Dublin. Genuine pride in U2 has been thin on the ground lately, but this stirring and powerful show merits our utmost respect.
- Eamon Sweeney
Â© 2009 Independent.ie