After years of hearing friends’ stories about going to see The Rolling Stones in Budapest or The Black Keys in Helsinki, seeing a major touring act on an international stage has always sat at the top of my live-music bucket list, promising an experience unique to anything you can find in the States. Thanks to a fortunate routing overlap between a trip to visit family in Ireland and the European leg of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s The River Tour 2016, I was lucky enough to cross that item off the list last night in Dublin—and it most certainly did not disappoint.

The famed 82,000+ capacity Croke Park usually acts as the principal stadium and headquarters for the Gaelic Athletic Association, where athletes compete in Irish games like Hurling and Gaelic Football. But on Sunday afternoon, ahead of the second of two shows this weekend, the streets surrounding the stadium were in full Springsteen mode. Hordes of Irish fans sporting Stars-and-Stripes bandanas and “The Boss” t-shirts, pop-up restaurants like the “E Street Inn”, and vendors selling assorted cowboy hats appeared around the area. Sure, Bruce’s native New Jersey may be a long way from cowboy country, but the message was clear—on this day, all of Dublin was “Born in the USA”.

True to his word, Springsteen took the stage mere minutes after the advertised 7:00pm start time, easing into a solo piano performance of “Incident on 57th Street” as the crowd continued to trickle in. The Boss then welcomed the E Street Band to the stage, beginning a stellar set that scarcely saw the band take a moment to breathe over the course of 3+ hours and 31 songs.

The only breaks in the music came when the Boss took some time to tell a story or respond to a sign request, as he is frequently known to do. Responding to one fan’s sign requesting “Independence Day” from The River, Springsteen waxed nostalgic about his experiences growing up in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood, and the “big Irish voice” that spoke to him when he got his first guitar, telling him to “let it rock!”

Bruce also granted several sign requests to join the band onstage and dance with saxophonist Jake Clemons and guitarist Steven Van Zandt (i.e. “Can I Dance With Jake – Hair Twins!” and “LA to Dublin For A Dance With Little Steven”), and even invited a young kid up to sing the chorus of “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day”. But the biggest surprise of the night was still to come, with hometown hero Bono joining the band for a duet with Springsteen on “Because the Night”, to the raucous approval of the sellout crowd. You can watch fan-shot footage of the U2 singer’s sit-in below.

Bruce Springsteen & Bono – “Because The Night”

[Video: David Corway]

The energy only grew from there, as a scorching run of hits including “Born in the USA”, “Born to Run”, “Dancing in the Dark”, and the Isley Brothers’ “Shout” prompted the crowd to their feet, where they would stay for the remainder of the show. It was easy to see why Bruce loves playing in Ireland. The number of Irish diehards singing along to every word and encouraging the people around them to get up and dance was incredible. A palpable excitement permeated the crowd throughout the show, even way up in the nosebleed seats. This is one concert I won’t soon forget.