U2 performs at Brandenburg Gate for EMAs

Ceremony marked 20th anniversary of fall of the Berlin Wall

BERLIN -- Irish rockers U2 kicked off the MTV Europe Music Awards night on Thursday with a free concert for thousands of fans in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

The music channel's annual awards ceremony, one of the biggest nights in the pop music calendar outside of the U.S., is being held in the city to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

U2 opened the concert, which MTV has asked media to refer to as "MTV EMAs present U2 at the Brandenburg Gate," with "One" as fans from across Europe looked on and spotlights threw beams of light into the sky.

"Berlin, du bist wunderbar," said lead singer Bono, greeting the crowd in German.

The Berlin Wall, a symbol of the Cold War that split the city, was opened on November 9, 1989, leading to the reunification of east and west Germany 11 months later.

Hip hop artist Jay-Z joined the band on stage for "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and hundreds of people without passes to the designated area strained to catch a glimpse of the stars.

"It's really good to give (the awards) some meaning, more meaning, and music is such a wonderful celebration of life," U.S. pop singer Katy Perry, who will be hosting the awards for the second year in a row, told Reuters.

The awards ceremony itself follows U2's performance in a separate concert venue. Perry said the show would be inspired by the "Cabaret" film with Liza Minnelli, set in 1930s Berlin, and would be darker and sexier than last year.

While the awards are based in Europe, they tend to be dominated by big U.S. names, and this year is no exception with New Yorker Lady Gaga and Nashville-based Kings of Leon leading the way with five nominations apiece.

Compatriot Beyonce is up for four nominations, while Detroit rapper Eminem and Californian punk rockers Green Day are shortlisted for three awards each.

Perry, nominated for Best Female and Best Video, hosts while British singer Joss Stone will welcome guests on the red carpet.

European acts U2, Pixie Lott and La Roux received two nominations apiece.