The sound of Sunday Bloody Sunday blasted out of a subway station in central Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday as Bono and The Edge took to a makeshift stage in a makeshift bomb shelter and performed a surprise 40-minute concert to a backdrop of air-raid sirens and war.
During the concert, the U2 frontman praised Ukraine’s fight for “freedom” and stressed that the fight being fought by the Ukrainian people was not confined to a relatively small geographical area but resonated across the entire world.
“The people in Ukraine are not just fighting for your own freedom, you are fighting for all of us who love freedom,” Bono told the crowd of up to 100 gathered inside the Khreshchatyk metro station, among whom were soldiers in military fatigues.
Bono rallied the crowd between songs during his performance. “This evening, 8th of May, shots will ring out in the Ukraine sky, but you’ll be free at last. They can take your lives, but they can never take your pride,” he said.
He also acknowledged Ireland’s own struggles and conflicts and the sometimes troubled relationship it has had with a much larger neighbour to the east, and he expressed hope that Ukraine would be at peace sooner rather than later.
“We pray that you will enjoy some of that peace soon,” the singer said.
‘Athlone and Kinnegad’
Introducing Angel of Harlem, Bono told the crowd that of all the great cities and towns in the world, including Tokyo, Sydney, Chicago as well as “Athlone and Kinnegad”, there was “ nowhere in the whole world that we would rather be in today than in the great city of Kyiv”.
The setlist included U2 standards such as With or Without You and Desire but one standout moment came when Bono invited a Ukrainian soldier to sing along to Ben E King’s Stand By Me as a call for the world to support the Ukrainian struggle.
The singer, the guitarist and members of the army sang the song, replacing the “Me” of the title with “Ukraine”.
“It’s some good emotions, that’s all,” said a member of the Ukrainian territorial forces in the audience. The band were joined by Ukrainian band Antytila and its frontman Taras Topolia, who in February signed a contract with the armed forces of Ukraine and has served since then.
In a tweet posted on Sunday morning, Bono and the Edge said they had performed the concert at the invitation of Ukrainian president Volodmyr Zelenskiy and said the invitation had been extended “as a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, so that is what we’ve come to do”.
‘One man’s war’
Speaking to Sky News in Kyiv, Bono appeared to reference Russian president Vladimir Putin by saying that the war in Ukraine was “one man’s war”.
“I think it’s one man’s war, really”, he said. “I think that the people in Russia... younger people know what’s going on. I trust in the younger people in Russia to throw this man out of his office, that was so high and is so low, right now.”
Bono and the Edge were later pictured visiting Bucha and Irpin, two areas where alleged Russian war crimes took place. The pair greeted people as they inspected the damage to a residential area in Irpin, near Kyiv. They also visited visiting the site of a mass grave by the Church of St Andrew Pervozvannoho All Saints in the town of Bucha. -–Additional reporting Reuters/PA