The unforgettable four
Finally, after weeks of build-up, the Irish leg of U2's 360° Tour is upon us and last night it didn't disappoint, reports Chris Wasser
It was as if a new Pope had just been elected. In fact, to some people, it was probably just as important.
Here it was -- the performance we'd been waiting for all year. Indeed, only the harshest critic would admit to not feeling a little excited by the sight of white smoke emerging from the top of the 'Claw'.
And, as soon as those lads stood under it ... well, let's just say that homecomings have never been so loud.
Contrary to what excessive media coverage might lead you to believe, an evening in the company of the world's biggest band won't change your life.
Yet Bono, The Edge, Larry, and Adam deserve every bit of praise that manages to outshine the often baffling criticism.
Far from being just another addition to the group's already impressive globe-trotting history book, the U2 360° Tour revolutionises the very essence of performing live. At least in football stadiums, anyway.
Sure, a lot of fuss had been made regarding the fact that Irish fans were not going to receive the full 360° experience at Croke Park.
Rightly so -- we didn't and we should have. Yet, that's neither here nor there right now. Even after three decades together, these four best friends from the northside are in fine form.
Fast becoming the more controversial member in the band, Larry Mullen Jr is the first to take to his instrument, and, while No Line On The Horizon's Breathe might not make for the vibrant opener we had all wished for, it's difficult to imagine this show kicking off with anything other than the song's memorable drum intro.
Needless to say, Sir Bono is the last to arrive on stage, although it would be almost impossible to mock his presence while 85,000 other people commend his very existence.
Interestingly enough, the first truly memorable moment of the night arrives in the form of Get On Your Boots -- one of No Line's weaker moments. We're talking some pretty nifty work behind the scenes (revolving lanes, funky imagery, etc.). We're talking high levels of enthusiasm from the normally subtle Adam Clayton. We're talking madness, at the centre of which lies perhaps the most distinctive style of guitar playing in the world.
Simply put, The Edge has rarely sounded better and Boots is lifted from worst-lead-single status to live favourite.
Try as I might to steer away from this Claw and closer to the topic of the guys' impressive showmanship and delivery, there is no ignoring the visual wonderment on offer as the 160ft-tall structure towers over the rest of the field.
As soon as it gets dark, it gets better. At the best of times, it looks like a particularly large and shiny Christmas tree decoration, albeit one with its very own screen and which just happens to do the strangest of things when accompanied by numbers such as City of Blinding Lights, Sunday Bloody Sunday, and the always reliable Where The Streets Have No Name.
Meanwhile, back on the ground, Bono dishes out a couple of predictable but seemingly heartfelt and highly patriotic yarns. Initially apologising to "the good people of the neighbourhood" for putting up with them this week, the 49-year-old singer comes across as a witty and likeable character.
Further musical highlights include a riveting take on previous tour opener Vertigo, an acoustic-led rendition of Desire, and a much welcomed Discotheque-like remix of forthcoming single I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight.
This hit-laden set continues smoothly without much interruption, pausing near the end, however, for a pre-recorded broadcasted message from former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Soon after a wonderfully atmospheric Bad, the band returns for an encore featuring With Or Without You and the surprisingly touching Moment of Surrender.
The first night of any sort of residency is usually not the best. But it's safe to say that there was something magical about last night's triumphant return to home turf. Fair enough, it may just be rock n' roll, but that doesn't mean I can't like it. Or even love it.