Page last updated at 10:09 GMT, Saturday, 25 July 2009 11:09 UK

80,000 pack in for U2 home gigs

Part of the 80,000-strong crowd watching U2 at their homecoming concert
Part of the 80,000-strong crowd watching U2 at their homecoming concert

They have been rocking for 33 years, but U2 showed there was still a spring in their step in Dublin on Friday.

The Irish rock superstars played in front of 80,000 fans in Croke Park in the first of three concerts at the stadium.

"In the words of our good friends the Corrs, we are so young," lead singer Bono, who turns 50 next year, shouted, at the start of Beautiful Day.

"As a nation I mean," he added pointing to the crowd.

U2 had promised fans a night and a stage show to remember - and they weren't going to let anyone down.

Once they performed tracks from their latest album, the band launched into their greatest hits.

Bono also paid tribute to Ronnie Drew of the Dubliners, who died last year, by playing one of their tracks the Auld Triangle.

U2 dazzled fans from inside a giant steel claw that rose to 60 metres high above the crown - almost as tall as the stands surrounding it.

It took a week to construct the impressive setting, that included 550 tonnes of steel, 56 tonnes of video screens and spanned across a third of the pitch.

Music aside, the band's political allegiance was clear - with a dedication to jailed Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi, currently on trial charged with breaking a security law.

Thousands of concert-goers wore a mask bearing her image when the band played Walk On.

Bono (left) and Larry Mullen Jnr from U2 playing at Croke Park
Bono and Larry Mullen Jnr from U2 playing at Croke Park

Fans queued from midnight last night in torrential rain to catch the band up close.

Over the coming days more than 240,000 revellers from as far as Japan, Canada and America will descend on the north Dublin stadium - the equivalent to three All Ireland's finals back to back.

It is estimated the series of gigs - tonight, tomorrow and Monday - will boost the city's economy by 50 million euro.

Celia Braga, from Lisbon in Portugal, was in the audience.

"I am a big fan," said the 36-year-old.

"This is my first time seeing them. It will be a fantastic night."

Ahead of the gig Bono told fans via a website link-up: "The 'rehearsals' have been going really well. We've been rehearsing in Barcelona, Milan, Nice, Berlin and Amsterdam, but we expect that the main event in Dublin will be better than any of them."

The Edge added: "It's not just another show, for us or for the fans. They travel from all over the world to see us perform in Dublin. Most of them believe it's the best gig for them to attend."

Concert promoters MCD and gardai again appealed to concert-goers to follow traffic plans in the area and respect local residents.

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