25 June 2005

Unison.ie / Irish Independent

80,000 fans turn out as U2 return home in triumph


YOU TWO: back home . . . storming Croker, and giving the fans exactly what they wanted. Picture: Kenneth O'Halloran

U2 made a triumphant homecoming to Dublin last night when they played the first of three concerts in front of 80,000 people at Croke Park.

The biggest band in the world came back to the city where Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam first began rehearsing together more than 25 years ago as teenagers at Mount Temple school. And their fans - across the generations - loved it.

The music went down a treat - and it was just as well as Bono's words were lost on a large section of the crowd.

In many parts of the huge Croke Park stands, fans said the sound system didn't allow them to make out what Bono was saying. Speakers positioned half way down the stadium to relay sound to fans further away from the stage created what some fans described as a time delay effect.

Fans from all over the country and from further afield began filing into the stadium just after 3pm when the doors officially opened to the public.

The diehard followers, some queueing in dismal conditions since Wednesday evening, were rewarded for their loyalty by securing a place early in the day in The Elipse, or front pit of the stadium, which holds 4,500.

The three concerts are reckoned to be worth €50m to the capital. "It's not as big as a Papal visit but it's the next biggest thing," said Dublin Tourism spokesman Frank McGee.

Although there were reports of disgruntled fans being moved by gardai to the back of a queue of people on Jones's Avenue after queueing all morning at the wrong entrance on Jones's Road, gardai said last night they were pleased with the crowd and the fact that there were no arrests or serious disruptions.

Ticket touts, who may have expected to rake in hundreds of euro for tickets outside Croke Park were last night left disappointed and forced to drop their prices at the last minute. By late evening touts were selling tickets for as little as €130 - just €70 more than the face value for a standing ticket for last night's show, and hundreds less than those offered on Irish internet auction site ebay.

But if the touts were losing out, local publicans in the areas surrounding Croke Park were reaping the benefits of the crowds descending on Dublin 3.

James Gill's pub on North Circular Road and Quinn's pub in Drumcondra were packed to the brim, with people spilling out onto the streets.

And the money-making outside the stadium was more than matched by that within. Alcoholic drinks were €5 a go and nibbles such as burgers and hot dogs were selling for €4 a piece.

Despite the dark clouds looming overhead, spirits were high amongst revellers in the streets surrounding Croke Park.

"We don't mind if it rains all night as long as we get to see them," said Jimmy O'Shea who travelled from Tralee with his wife Minnie and daughter Aoife to see the show.

Traffic came to a standstill as concertgoers descended on the stadium in their thousands. Trains into the city were mobbed, as were the extra buses put on by Bus Eireann. An estimated 30,000 travelled down from the North.

A short time before the concert, manager Paul McGuinness said: "Playing Dublin is always extra excitement, extra pressure. It's great to be playing this magnificent stadium."

Bono and the boys bounded on stage at 9pm and, after a brief intro, yelled: "Uno, dos, tres, quatorze' - the opening line of their hit single 'Vertigo', whereupon the whole audience joined in.

In a stage towering 28 metres above Croke Park, Bono, forever proud of his roots, told the crowd: "This is the funky side of town, this is the north side." And with that the multi-million-euro stage erupted into an visual extravaganza blasting out pyrotechnics and brightly colour lights to the packed arena.

While Bono initially seemed nervous, he quickly got into the swing of things, engaging the crowd with hits such as 'Beautiful Day', 'Wild Horses' and 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For'.

The 22,000-strong crowd who were standing leapt up and down in frenzied enthusiasm at the start of each song. And the gesture wasn't lost on Bono, who commended them on their performance. "Thank you for all your support, you crazy fools," he yelled before launching into a back catalogue of hits spanning more than 25 years.

Louise Healy

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