The Irish rock band played the 1,000-seat Somerville Theatre in Davis Square on Wednesday night as fans swarmed the area, looking for a way into the show or for just a glimpse of the musicians.
The group played five songs, four from its new album, "No Line on the Horizon." U2 started off the set with the new song "Get on Your Boots." It also played "Vertigo."
U2 was big in the Boston area before it was big everywhere, and played the Paradise club in Boston in 1980 during its first North American tour.
"This is where it all began for us, Boston, Mass.," said lead singer Bono, who along with the rest of the band, took written questions from the audience after the performance.
There were several days of rumors and speculation before the location for the concert was revealed. Tickets were long gone by showtime, many through local radio stations.
Socrates Cruz, 24, a musician from Cambridge, said he spent almost the entire day calling radio stations trying to win tickets. He didn't succeed, but decided to go to the scene anyway.
"I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't come," he said.
Elena Viveiros, 45, of Somerville, said she had "zero hope" of getting into the show but wanted to experience the energy outside the theater. She carried a radio on her hip so she could hear a live broadcast of the concert.
Some fans were luckier.
JoAnn and Steve Lagasse, of Haverhill, said they'd seen the band all around the country. When they learned that tickets were going to be available on the radio for the Somerville concert, they each picked a station and started dialing.
"I bawled, I started crying, in fact I couldn't even speak for a while when (Steve) told me we won," JoAnn Lagasse said.
The theater is one of the small venues U2 is playing as it promotes its new album. The band is touring this summer, starting in Europe and ending in the United States, including a Sept. 20 concert at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
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(This version CORRECTS correct spelling to Theatre from Theater.)