By Ken Sweeney, Independent.ie Entertainment Editor
BONO was a surprise addition to the Electric Picnic festival when it kicked off in brilliant sunshine yesterday.
Arriving by helicopter at 6.15pm, the U2 frontman wasn't performing but turned up to catch a set by his long-time friend Gavin Friday on the first day of the music and arts event.
For decades Friday has jetted around the globe as U2's 'special adviser', giving them notes about their live shows.
But last night the roles were reversed as Bono sized up the former Virgin Prune's performance on the main stage just after 7pm.
The only problem with having a superstar pal watching your show is that photographers' lenses were all trained on Bono watching from the mixing desk rather than on the stage.
Nevertheless, Gavin dedicated his song 'Angel' to Bono and his wife Ali who are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary this month.
It was Bono's first visit to the Electric Picnic, which is now in its ninth year.
Take That's Gary Barlow admitted on the 'X Factor' last weekend that he had never heard of the Electric Picnic, but for the 32,500 Irish music fans in Stradbally, Co Laois, this weekend it's the highlight of their music year.
Wayne Stuart (30) spoke for many. Originally from Co Clare but now working in Glasgow, Wayne had returned to Ireland specially for the three-day event.
"It's not just the music. There are so many other attractions to the Electric Picnic like Mindfield and Body & Soul," he said.
"I'd describe it as an adult playground. I went to Oxegen for the first eight years but I'm not 18 any more and the age range at Electric Picnic goes from kids to senior citizens.
"I love the atmosphere so much that it got me back from Scotland."
The biggest drawback to any Irish music festival is the unpredictable weather, but by teatime last night the meadows of the 600-acre Stradbally estate were bathed in balmy sunshine.
There's more good news, with Met Eireann promising today will start off dry and bright, and tomorrow will be even warmer and sunnier, with temperatures hitting 20C or 21C.
Tailbacks didn't prove a problem either, with heavy but steadily-moving traffic around Stradbally last night.
That left one genuine problem for festival-goers -- the clash of top names on different stages with Ed Sheeran, Christy Moore and Icelandic band Sigur Ros all performing between 11pm and midnight last night.
Even a three-hour set from Goth doom merchants The Cure tonight seems unlikely to dampen spirits.
One of the more unusual performers on the many stages over the weekend will be celeb agent Noel Kelly. (See The Diary -- Review Section).
More used to representing Ryan Tubridy and Grainne Seoige, the 49-year-old will be fronting the Transformation Blues Band on the Salty Dog stage at 7pm this evening.
However, the NK management boss said his "singing the blues" had nothing to do with salary cuts for his stars in RTE.
Rather, he's doing a favour for the band whose singer had been unavailable for the festival and looking forward to a return to his former role as frontman with Dublin blues band The Leadbellies.
Weekend festival tickets are still available for €230. Sunday day tickets are €99.50.
- Ken Sweeney Entertainment Editor
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