U2 returned to their old stomping ground of Dublin's 3Arena on Monday night, with Bono telling the crowd "the boys are back in town".

Opening with The Blackout and Lights of Home, the quartet then rewound to 1980s anthems I Will Follow and Gloria, to the delight of the crowd, which included President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina.

President Michael D Higgins spotted taking his seat at U2's Dublin gig [credit: Sinéad Crowley]

"We're a band from the Northside of Dublin called U2, formerly The Hype," Bono told the audience. "This is our new tune, I Will Follow."

The first of the group's four nights at the venue brought the crowd back to a formative haunt, The Baggot Inn, as Bono recounted U2's bid to be signed by a record label.

"Those four innocent boys return as men, daring to believe that at the far end of experience we can find that innocence we had in The Baggot Inn," he said.

The fans, too reserved early on for any sort of homecoming, came alive during a superb Stay (Faraway, So Close!) and Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses.

Elevation, on the small second stage, lived up to its title, with the heady singalong of Vertigo the perfect follow-up.

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The self-proclaimed "greatest rock 'n' roll band on the Northside of Dublin" also found time to acknowledge recent referendum results and President Higgins' election victory, with Acrobat delivering a stronger political charge than when it first arrived in 1991.

The refugee crisis and the "European Dream" then took centre stage with Pride (In the Name of Love) and Get Out of Your Own Way as the soundtrack against extremism.

New Year's Day under the Flag of Europe was arguably the strongest image of the show, with the lyric "we can be one" encapsulating the night.

Dublin was celebrated onscreen during City of Blinding Lights, and with it came the sense that the capital's crowds need to shine as bright as the band in the three concerts still to come.

One - a song that always sounds best with the lights off - was afforded that perfect set-up during the encore, with Bono making an appeal for the island of Ireland to "trust each other more than ever" post Brexit.

This was a powerful performance that often doubled-down on the political, but never lost the back-home personal touch. U2 are in rude health; the audience on Monday night sometimes struggled to find its own pulse.

Earlier in the day, Adam Clayton told RTÉ Radio 1's The Ryan Tubridy Show that he and the rest of the band were looking forward to "a real homecoming" at the first of their four Dublin concerts at the 3Arena.

The bassist joined Tubridy on the phone on Monday morning as the band's eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE European tour rolled into their hometown.

"It's very exciting, because it's the end of about four years travelling around as minstrels, playing our songs, so it's a real homecoming for us to end up in Dublin," he enthused.

Clayton said "it's that separation from home and family that is really the hardest thing to overcome". 

"But it is the life that we chose," he continued. "I mean, we were doing this from the age of 18 onwards. And it has been very intense in the last couple of years.

"Well, the last four years we've been pretty much on a roll. The last two albums, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, were linked, and then the Joshua Tree tour in the middle of that which we thought was going to be, you know, three or four shows, or five at the most was a runaway success. So that compressed the time.

"But we're very lucky that nowadays we do have mobile cell phone coverage in most places of the world and there's always FaceTime and WhatsApp so you can stay in touch with home."

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As to what fans could expect in Dublin, Clayton said: "There's a couple of issues with the 3Arena which is that it's a slightly different configuration to most of the sports arenas that we've been playing in.

"In the sports arenas we run the stage right down the centre of the arena and it cuts the arena in two. Because of the layout of the 3Arena it's more of a theatre size, so we have to put the screen running up against the balcony and this screen is two feet longer than the one we did on Innocence. So there's been a few men with saws and hammers and nails kind of cutting bits off to get it in there. But we have got it in!

"The show you [Tubridy] would've seen in Berlin, where we run from the big main stage to the little round stage at the other end - that we can't do in the 3Arena. We have to put that round stage in the middle of the screen area. 

"So it will work differently, but every time you change something like that there are dividends, something new emerges. And when we do play the show tonight and the four shows that we're doing here, I'm sure we will be celebrating all the recent successes within Ireland.

"I think we'll probably be looking at the question of the Brexit issue on the South and on the Border up North. But when we played in Belfast a couple of days ago we had an amazing reception there and everyone was very much behind our stance."

Before signing off, Clayton was asked if Bono is in good form after losing his voice during U2's second Berlin show in September.  

"The voice is really great," Clayton replied. "That was a real kind of aberration and there is no real explanation. But I'm so glad he's had a great tour, he's been singing like a bird and I'm sure these next four shows are going to be spectacular."

Listen to the interview in full here.

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