With a roar that could rival the one seen last week in Tahrir square, Cairo, fans at the FNB Stadium last night gave U2 a rousing welcome.
But unlike the relief of Egyptians at President Hosni Mubarak’s exit from his position, fans here were celebrating seeing their favourite band playing in their own back yard.
And as lead singer Bono led the band up a stairway to the stage milking the applause and waving to all corners of the dimly lit cauldron, you knew why they’d sold over 150 million albums worldwide.
After the deafening welcoming screams, Bono wasted no time in belting out one of their biggest hits, Beautiful Day.
For another hit, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, legendary trumpeter Hugh Masekela was called on stage - to yet another massive cheer.
Former president Nelson Mandela also got a special mention, and even a video of his speech calling for “a united South Africa” was played on the big screen. Bishop Desmond Tutu sent a video message.
In between songs, Bono said: “We told you in 1998 that we’d be back … never trust a rock star. Anyway, we’re not finished yet … we’re happy to be back.”
Fans marvelled at the massive cylindrical big screen, as it expanded and contracted to create a kaleidoscopic mosaic.
Earlier in the evening, two unruly fans who got involved in a scuffle with security, were kicked out before U2’s roadies were done with sound checks. By the time the Malian duo of Amadou and Mariam, said their “merci beaucoup”, the stadium was rocking.
Local outfit the Springbok Nude Girls, led by the energetic Arno Carstens, played an impressive and compact set, which included the songs Gang Gang, I Love You, Genie and Bubblegum.
Almost an hour and a half before the Irish rock band hit the stage, thousands of fans, some in wheelchairs, others heavily pregnant and others drunk, took pictures and danced under the imposing “Claw” - the name given to the band’s 360-degree stage.
There were scores of fans in their U2 attire, standing in queues for refreshments and for toilet breaks.
Eyewitness News was inundated with calls about long queues, traffic problems and a lack of water at the concert. Jack Longford, CEO of organisers Big Concerts, denied there was a shortage of water or food and said people needed to be patient.
The band will play at the Cape Town Stadium on February 18 before heading to South America. The tour ends in July.