U2 elevate Slane in emotional concert


It was a beautiful day, and night too, as U2 brought its world tour back home for an emotion-charged concert before its biggest audience ever in Ireland.

The mostly young audience went wild as the supergroup launched into some of its biggest hits, including " Beautiful Day", " End of the World" and the " Sunday, Bloody Sunday".

The most poignant moment came when Bono sang " Kite", a song he has dedicated to his father, Mr Bob Hewson, a retired postal clerk who died on Tuesday after a long illness.

"I want to thank God for taking my old man away from his sickness and his tired old body and giving him a new one," Bono said before launching into the ballad, which includes the lyrics: "Who's to know when the time has come around/ Don't want to see you cry/I know this is not goodbye."

Last night was U2's first concert since 1997. Fans witnessed one of the most emotional and dramatic shows by one of history's biggest rock acts.

Bono, who has used his stardom as a platform to campaign for relief of Third World debt and other international social causes, was clearly moved.

Supermodel Naomi Campbell, former Formula One racing driver Eddie Irvine and singer Robbie Williams were among celebrities publicists said attended, but the day and night clearly belonged to the youth of Ireland, who were in a serious mood to celebrate.

"This is absolutely massive, it's the biggest occasion that has happened here for the last 10 or 20 years," said Mr Darren Byrne, 24, a sales representative in a blue-and-white checked "Mad Hatter" style hat who danced along with friends.

Ms Jenny Wright, 50, originally of Northern Ireland and a long-time fan, said she'd flown from Portugal just for the show.

"I'm old Ireland," she said, "but this event is for young Ireland, definitely."

Police and first aid crews took precautions to avoid trouble, including anyone drowning while swimming the Boyne to get in, but reported no serious incidents by early evening.

Police made at least 43 drug arrests and confiscated at least 100 forged tickets.

Slane village was effectively closed to all but locals for the day before and the day of the concert, which irritated some.

"It's a nightmare," said Myra Collins, who lives just outside the walls of the 18th-century castle, where U2 recorded its 1984 album, "The Unforgettable Fire".

Other residents, including some with no interest in U2 or pop music, were happy about the concert, which included other major bands such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Coldplay.

"It's grand, it brings a bit of activity," said Mr Bert Gough, 80, a retired textile worker sitting on his front steps across from the castle walls, soaking up the rare Irish sunshine and watching the parade of youth pass by.

U2, which began its "Elevation Tour 2001" in Miami in March, has been on the road most of the time since.

Industry publications reported that even before adding 25 additional US dates, the tour had generated an estimated $142 million worldwide.