Northern Ireland

U2 back in Belfast for first time since 1998

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Media captionSpectacular visuals were part of the concert at the SSE Arena.

It was a significant night for many reasons.

For U2 it was their first concert since they cancelled weekend shows in Paris in response to the horrific attacks which claimed 129 lives and left hundreds injured.

In the aftermath of the attacks, the band had taken part in a candlelit vigil in the city to pay their respects to the victims.

For their fans in Northern Ireland, it was the first chance to see U2 playing in the city in almost 18 years.

The last full concert they played in Northern Ireland was in 1997 in Belfast's Botanic Gardens.

They then stepped on stage in the Waterfront Hall in 1998 for two songs as part of the 'Yes' concert ahead of the Good Friday Agreement.

Since then, they have toured the world but have not made it back to Belfast.

Until last night.

But for the thousands of fans who packed the city's SSE Arena, it was a gig worth waiting for.

Image copyright Niall Carson
Image caption The band last played in the city as part of the 'Yes' concert ahead of the Good Friday Agreement
Image copyright Niall Carson
Image caption A fan holds up their own message to terrorists during the concert

While the bulk of the audience was made up of locals, I spoke to people who had crossed the border for the gig, and many others who had travelled from further afield like Italy and Brazil.

To begin, Bono strode along a walkway through the crowd to the stage like a boxer to the strains of Patti Smith's "The People have the Power," before the band opened with The Miracle of Joey Ramone.

The stage set was initially stripped down, and U2 played some early hits, like The Electric Co from their 1980 debut album, Boy.

It was not long, though, before the full U2 concert experience kicked in with spectacular visuals during songs like Invisible and Raised by Wolves, which commemorates the 33 people killed by the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

At one point, during Until the End of the World, a giant Bono appeared to hold guitarist Edge in the palm of his hand.

Late in the concert there were messages of peace and solidarity with the people of Paris, and the singer also had a message for Belfast.

"You are heroes to us on this stage," he said.

"Thank you for your patience; thanks for sticking with us."

Image copyright Niall Carson
Image caption Thousands of fans packed the city's SSE Arena for Wednesday night's gig

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