The European leg of Vertigo '05 opened in style in Brussels tonight.
Before a capacity crowd of 50,000 in Belgium, the band played a blinder of a set from the opening chords of Vertigo to... well... the closing chords of Vertigo two and a quarter hours later.
'I want to introduce someone to you,' said Bono, arriving on the stage to an tumultuous reception. 'I want to introduce Larry Mullen Jnr to you... Adam Clayton to you...The Edge to you...Unos, Dos, Tres....Catorce!'
Until The End of the World made only its second appearence tonight, amongst twenty one songs from six albums stretching from Electric Co from 1979 to All Because of You from 2004. (And - for completists - with lyrical snatches of Please and The Hands That Built America, two other albums got in on the action too.)
And if the Belgians loved it, the singer appeared to reciprocate. 'Come on you little box of chocolates,' he suggested, with a timely cultural reference. 'I'm going to take a bite out of you!'
Early on a helicopter was buzzing the King Baudouin Stadium, evidently filled with passengers who couldn't get a ticket for the show. 'Take a picture of this Mr Helicopter...' They could have too, the clarity of the big screens atop the red and black striped speaker stacks was brilliant, picking out every band member for close attention right to the back of the arena. It was turning into a beautiful night as the summer evening light obstinately refused to fade. No wonder 'Beautiful Day' was completed with a great borrow from George Harrison, 'little darling, here come the sun, it's alright...'
With Brussels dubbed - to widespread satisfaction - 'the capital of Zooropa', it was with the opening chords of City of Blinding Lights that suddenly the stunning curved metal curtain stretching across the entire back of the stage revealed itself as a dazzling video screen. Let's not spoil the anticipation too much for the hundreds of thousands of you who'll be seeing the show this summer (and anyway we've got to save up something to write about for later shows) but suffice to say that the screen is another quantum leap forward for U2's live production.
Miracle Drug was introduced with a dedication to scientists and doctors while Love and Peace was opened by the rhythm section: Larry on floor tom at the tip of one of the two b-stages, Adam driving the track along from the tip of the other catwalk. For fans on the first leg who had not quite been able to make out the symbols of the great Abrahamic religions which feature on Bono's bandana - and which he talks about to open Sunday Bloody Sunday - tonight the symbols were projected in ten foot tall red letters.
'I'd like to dedicate this next song to a great Irishwoman who is here tonight, Mary Robinson,' said Bono as the band segued into Running To Stand Still. 'She has been a fighter for human rights all over the world, a tireless and extraordinary woman.'
So it was all the more poignant when, as with the first leg of the tour, the track ended with the words of the UN Declaration of Human Rights scrolling across the entire stage, the audience breaking into applause.
The sequence of Pride, Streets and One, again offered Bono the chance to rap about the 'journey of equality', in particular the journey of equality of Africans living in poverty - and a twenty year journey 'from the charity of Live Aid to the justice of Live 8'. Soon the stadium was blinking with the lights of tens of thousands of cell phones, many texting their details to sign up to join the Belgian wing of the worldwide movement to Make Poverty History.
An excorciating version of Zoo Station, including some gigantic visuals of the band, marked the first encore while The Fly, accompanied by Mark Pellington's new text-based video ('The secret is yourself'), saw the volume ramped back up to max again. 'Not bad for the first night of the stadium shows,' said Gavin Friday