Northern Ireland

Bono lauds John Hume and Belfast in emotional U2 performance

U2 Play Belfast SSE Live on Saturday night. Picture by Hugh Russell
U2 Play Belfast SSE Live on Saturday night. Picture by Hugh Russell

U2 frontman Bono spoke emotionally about Nobel peace prizewinner John Hume as he declared Belfast “still a great European city”.

In a concert full of political statement and praise for Belfast, he saved his kindest and most heartfelt message of recognition for the former SDLP leader who is seriously ill.

He name-checked the Derry politician as he introduced Pride (In The Name of Love) from The Unforgettable Fire album at the SSE arena.

“From Fitzroy Avenue to Cyprus Avenue; Palestine Street to Jerusalem Street. Blessed are the peacemakers. I remember John Hume and his vision. Let’s sing for him tonight,” he said.

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Bono stood between Mr Hume and former Ulster Unionist leader and first minister David Trimble on stage at a special concert in the Waterfront Hall ahead of the Good Friday Agreement referendum in 1998.

The 58-year-old, who is known for making political and social statements around the world, also took the opportunity to reassure the audience ahead of the looming Brexit deadline on March 31.

Standing in front of a European flag projected onto a massive screen, amid continuing controversial debate around the border, he told the band’s fans: “Belfast, still a great European city... always and for ever.

“Whatever happens, whether there’s a hard or soft or no border at all, more than ever, we need to trust each other on this small island in the North Atlantic Ocean. It looks like some rough weather ahead but it’ll be a lot less rough if we navigate it together.

He laid out his message of cooperation for his fans and added: “We must be smart, strategic and work together.”

Bono played up the band’s historic connections to the city on Saturday and Sunday performances of their eXPERIENCE and iNNOCENCE concert, the sequel to their first half of the concert played in Belfast nearly three years ago. 

He lauded recent Man Booker prizewinner Anna Burns, who was born and raised in north Belfast, along with the city’s ‘Godfather of Punk’ Terri Hooley.

However, he delighted the crowds by telling the band’s history from its various performances in Belfast, recalling their first gig in 1979.

He said: “We were shook down by every uniform in the city. ‘What’s in the boot of the car?’ they asked. ‘Only Adam Clayton on the drink.’”