SLANE 2001
U2 Return after 20 Years!

20 years after supporting the legendary Irish rock group Thin Lizzy at Slane Castle in 1981 U2 have returned to rock the castle to its foundations once again, and once more in the name of love.
Personally, I cannot speak for the first of the two gigs but if feedback from friends, family and complete strangers is anything to go by, it was fantastic. Phrases such as "Unforgettable" and "I only wish everyone could have the chance to see them" rolled off the tongue all week as I waited with bated breath for my moment basking in the glow of one of the greatest bands in the world.

Media reviews of the first of two U2 gigs at Slane this year varied, some dubbing it a "Peaceful Concert" where Bono said that the Drop the Debt campaign "showed that an African life was worth 'as much as a European or American life'" - Emmet Oliver (See below). Tony Clayton-Lea (See below), while critical of the "limitations of the stage show" said:

"Discarding the synapseblitz of both the Zooropa and PopMart tours, the lack of spectacle, however, was perfectly balanced by the songs - a 20-year back catalogue, the potent power of which still surprises.

If this was a tour that needed to reflect U2 as a bona fide rock band, rather than as musical props surrounded by expensive bells'n'whistles technology, then it succeeded in no small degree."

Finally the second date arrived. The First of September 2001 will not be a day I forget easily. The line up for the day (after several changes) worked well. The Walls proved that while "The Stunning" may be consigned to the annals of history, there is still hope for Irish music beyond U2. Nelly Furtado rose to the occasion, belting out a few tuneful numbers that got a fair number of the swelling crowd to their feet. The real eye-opener however was the incredible performance put on by the Irish football team as they blasted their way past Holland to keep World Cup qualification hopes alive, probably not knowing that they had almost eighty thousand more supporters screaming for them as they raced across Slane's huge screens. As Bono quipped later they were "The best support act" and "In future we are supporting you!".

Even Ash, never at their best live, managed to keep the crowd nicely warm. It was not until Moby stalked onstage to the whispers of violins however that the gig really got going. He provided the crowd with just what they wanted - one of the most electrifying performances I have seen in years! Pulling Nelly Furtado back onstage to do one more number with him, he wowed the crowd with some of his more awesome tunes. Then amazingly pulled an even better card out of his hat with the appearance of a mystery guest. Performing his amazing "Little white horse" song alongside Moby was Ardal O'Hanlan! The Father Ted star got a huge hand after his fantastically tuneless number as the audience went wild!

If Moby was hot however, U2 proved volcanic! The crowd literally pulsed as Thin Lizzy's "The boys are back in town" ripped out across the natural ampitheatre announcing the arrival onstage of the boys who had not played live in Slane since 1981. Indeed they had not played at all in the castle since it burned down in the 80's following the recording of their "Unforgettable Fire".

Opening with the title track of their new album "Elevation" the "boys" blasted into a truly "unforgettable" act. Once again, as reported of the first gig, the message of the day was one of peace and love. Bono once again punctuated "Bullet The Blue Sky" with calls to the IRA, UVF, UDA and other Three-Letter-Acronym groups to get rid of their arms and to the governments of the world to stop arms trading!

A truly iconic Bono was in fantastic form for this second gig and all speculation as to his state of mind must be put to rest after the energy he showed on the night. Nostalgia and mourning were of course still poignantly present but added greatly to the night. "Out of control" was prefaced with an emotional thanks to the parents of the band members for, "the lend of 500 quid", as Bono told a heartwarming tale of going to his father (as the others had theirs) and asking him for a loan to make his dream come true.

After the first encore Bono turned and quietly conferred with the band before turning and asking "Why don't we not do that thing. That thing where we go off again and you call for us to come back on? Why don't we just stay out here!" An ecstatic audience screamed their approval as the band launched into their next number!

The highlight for me was the fantastic "Where The Streets Have No Name". Many however went into orbit as the fireworks erupted. "Leave it all behind" seemed to mark the end of the night but as the first firework crashed into the sky the strains of "Unforgettable Fire" were once again heard echoing from the walls of the castle!

For Full Reviews of the first Date from the Irish Times:
http://www.ireland.com/dublin/entertainment/music/u2_2001/12.htm - Emmet Oliver
and http://www.ireland.com/dublin/entertainment/music/u2_2001/12c.htm - Tony Clayton-Lea

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