by Patrick Lynch
Despite my initial reservations about mixing sports and music, it was Ireland’s one and only winning goal against Holland (beamed live between support acts to Slane castle from Landsdowne Road soccer stadium) that kicked off the crowd on this, U2’s second homecoming within a week.
From here on the mood was jubilant, the battle for any further support act halved. Not that Ash needed much help. Their mix of Ramone’s type rock with their cute Irish young band appeal ensures their charm. As one nearby observer put it “It’s not so much that they look good. They’re just sexy”. Their set, culled mainly from their current ‘Free All Angels’ release spawned such popular gems as ‘Shining Light’, ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Candy’. Between acts I took in the view. Seated a bit back on the hill this week, not far from the castles front door, the view dips down to the stage on my right and to people as far as the eye can see on my left. There’s no denying the venue’s beauty. It’s scope of trees and hills, not to mention the river or Castle itself.
It takes something special to fill the shoes of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers who played the last support act slot to U2 the week before. With Moby we get just that. A colourful string section precedes his arrival on stage. Then the high priest of dance turns Slane into the biggest rave party Ireland has ever seen, as 80,000 people get on down to tracks like ‘Go’ and ‘So Real’, before the atmosphere is hushed again with more ambient moments from his current ‘Play’ album. But surely the most surreal moment of the day came with a rendition of the Father Ted (classic Irish television comedy) Eurovision cracker ‘My Lovely Horse’. This song is performed with none other than Father Dougal McGuire himself!
After that, the clouds, which have been threatening rain all day, move in to make the venue much darker than the previous week’s glorious sunshine. U2’s 8.30pm appointment comes and goes. By the time they do come onstage some ten minutes later it’s well into dusk. Their reception is as rapturous as ever. The band rises to the occasion and belt out storming versions of ‘Elevation’ and ‘Beautiful Day’. From the outset Bono looks fresher. Free of the burden of his father’s funeral the week before. As a result it is clear that this show will not reach the emotional intensity of its predecessor. It couldn’t and arguably shouldn’t. If all the anniversaries (20 years since their first Slane gig etc) have been marked, then this show in itself is still a first of firsts. Namely the first time a band has filled Slane twice. And considering the size of the venue it is still their biggest Irish home crowd. The celebration continues with ‘Until The End Of The World’ and ‘New Years Day’. A rocking ‘Out Of Control’, as fresh as the punk anthem of twenty years ago provides the only real change to this weeks set. It also facilitates for Bono to tell the tale of how U2 got the money together to record their first single. How