U2 in Croke Park


AT A TIME when the mood of the country seems as downbeat as the almost daily dismal briefings on our collapsing economy, the sight and sound of four middle-aged men from Dublin’s northside in concert this weekend will come as a welcome reminder that Ireland still has much of which to be proud.

U2’s three homecoming concerts in Croke Park are a celebration of the Irish band’s remarkable continuing success story, not least in their homeland. Almost a quarter of a million fans will pack the stadium for the 3600 shows, so-called because of the claw-like special stage that affords fans around the ground an optimum view of the band.

The Dublin concerts are part of a European tour following the release of U2’s 13th studio album, “No Line on the Horizon”. The tour kicked off in Barcelona on June 30th and ends in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on August 22nd. The band then moves to Chicago where the American leg of the tour begins.

And while international interest in U2 remains undimmed, there is little doubt that these homecoming concerts are considered something special by the band and fans alike. Bono, tongue firmly in cheek, told the band’s website U2.com that they “had been rehearsing in Barcelona, Paris, Nice . . .” for Croke Park while the Edge promised something special for their home town stating that “it’s not just another show”.

There is a resonance in the timing of these latest concerts. When U2 broke through on the international stage in the 1980s, Ireland was going through difficult economic circumstances with talk of cutbacks and hairshirt budgets. As the band prospered through the 1990s into the new decade many people viewed U2 as emblematic of a new Ireland – talented, confident and successful. Now as we languish in the same, if not worse, circumstances, the country needs to find some of that energy, commitment and talent to help reignite a revival of our collective fortunes.

It is fitting that these concerts by what is generally acknowledged as Ireland’s greatest rock band should take place in Ireland’s greatest stadium. The GAA should be congratulated for adapting their hallowed ground to meet the challenge of mounting the claw-like stage. While the money the association receives will no doubt be welcome, it is to be hoped that the replacement turf, to be laid after the stage has been dismantled, will not grow to be a problem for the rest of the association’s great setpieces.