Saturday, October 24, 2009

U2 Live - A Review of the 360 Degrees Tour, 10/20/09

Music concerts are great things. I love getting to go to them, especially as money as tight as it is right now. However, no future concert I attend will even remotely come to close to U2's greatness on October 20, 2009.

This is something I wanted to do back in 2005 on the band's Vertigo Tour, but things came up and I couldn't attend either of the two shows here. This all changed, here in 2009, and it was money well spent.

The band was running late, so naturally the Black Eyed Peas, who opened, started their opening set late to accommodate for this. I wasn't particularly looking forward to BEP - I did think a few of their songs were nice and catchy, but every piece of live stuff I saw on them wasn't good. They proved me - and everyone else in the audience - wrong last night. They did a 9-song, 45-minute set, and from the opening notes of "Let's Get It Started", all the way to the extended ending of their latest hit "I Gotta Feeling", they were able to engage the crowd all the way through. I have to say, I may actually want to catch a full set of theirs in the future. Fergie got her turn in the spotlight, doing not only BEP's new single "Meet Me Halfway", but also her solo hit "Big Girls Don't Cry", in which she held out the last note of the song for about 10 whole seconds.

Now onto U2...

U2 were supposed to start around 8:30, but didn't take the stage until around 9, due to the reason already mentioned. However, I didn't care, I was just happy to be there.

When Bowie's "Space Oddity" was playing over the PA, I knew it was almost time for U2. Then, a new, unreleased U2 track named "Kingdom" played. That segued into an extended drum intro by Larry Mullen Jr. to the song "Breathe". Most reviews of previous shows I've read said that "Breathe" didn't work well as an opening song; I disagree. I like the extended drum intro. Then when the first notes of The Edge's guitar are played, it just works somehow. I can't describe the feeling. Second song was "Get On Your Boots", the first single from the band's latest album, No Line On the Horizon. On the album the song is embarrassingly bad, but it ROCKS live, especially when it's just Bono singing the line 'let me in the sound'; that just asks for audience participation.

Single 2 from No Line, "Magnificent", was next. Bono engaged the crowd to clap in time with the beat, and we gladly obliged. This was also a highlight of the show for me. I knew it would be great live, but it was even better than I expected. Up 4th was "Mysterious Ways", off of the 1991 album Achtung Baby. It was truncated from previous live incarnations - it just didn't seem right without its beginning solo that was included on previous tours.

"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" had some of the best audience participation of the night. We were so loud that Bono just let us sing the first half of the song! Bono sang the first verse of the song "Dirty Old Town" at the end, dedicated to The Pogues' Shane MacGowan. New song "Unknown Caller" I wasn't looking forward to, but live it was much better than I thought. The Edge's guitar solo at the end ROCKS.

"The Unforgettable Fire" was a song I never thought they would play live again before this tour started, but I'm grateful they put it back in their set, because it is a beautiful tune and very poetic. During "City of Blinding Lights", Bono pulled a young girl (couldn't have been more than 8 or 9) on stage with him. They walked and ran around the circle-shaped catwalk a few times, and then Bono gave the girl his sunglasses. That was a cute moment, I must say :)

A surprising highlight of the show was a dance remix of No Line single 3, "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight", produced by British DJ Andy Holt, also known by his stage name Redanka. On live recordings, it doesn't sound like much, but it got an otherwise lethargic crowd back into it. That led right into "Sunday Bloody Sunday", which was played better than on most previous tours, and was dedicated to the innocent victims of the 2009 Iranian election protests.

The main set ended with "MLK" and "Walk On"; the first as a solemn prayer for Burmese democracy fighter Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent the better part of 20 years under house arrest. The second was originally written about her to begin with and was brought back to the set to protest the Burmese military junta's decision to not let her free. Bono threw in a line from "You'll Never Walk Alone", to show that she has the support of many people.

The classic songs "One" and "Where the Streets Have no Name" were featured in the first encore; the first led in by a prerecorded speech by Desmond Tutu. Then when "Streets" started, I immediately felt like Bono did when the band played in Sarajevo in 1997; my voice decided to go away, not because of an illness, but because I was immediately overcome with emotion. I was seriously and honestly on the verge of tears. There was no sadness or anything. It was complete joy.

The final encore consisted of Achtung Baby's "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)", along with "With or Without You", and No Line's "Moment of Surrender". This is perhaps the "emotional point" of the entire show. "Ultraviolet" is a song written from the point of a couple on the verge of breakup, and Bono portrayed a character to suit this. He did the same on WOWY; except that his character this time is alone, and WOWY sounds more honest and heartbreaking than ever before. Before MOS, Bono gave shout-outs to Muhammad Ali and John McCain, and thanked both for their help and generosity in getting debt and AIDS relief over to Africa. The song itself was truncated from its album counterpart, presumably because they were going past curfew. Disappointing, but understandable.

Overall, an unforgettable night, and one I would gladly do again, given the chance. But a word to U2 though - while I liked the set, most people didn't. You could take lessons from the BEP in constructing a great setlist.

Full Black Eyed Peas setlist:

Let's Get It Started
Rock That Body
Meet Me Halfway
Now Generation
Big Girls Don't Cry (Fergie solo)
Pump It
Where Is the Love?
Boom Boom Pow
I Gotta Feeling

Full U2 setlist:

Breathe
Get On Your Boots
Magnificent
Mysterious Ways
Beautiful Day (with snippet of The Beatles' "Blackbird") - dedicated to Muhammad Ali, who was in attendence
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (with snippet of The Pogues' "Dirty Old Town")
Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of (Acoustic - Bono and The Edge only)
No Line On the Horizon
Elevation
In a Little While (Extended ending; Bono recognized 3 sisters that were at previous shows in years past and danced with ALL 3 OF THEM)
Unknown Caller (Bono allowed the sisters to sit by Larry Mullen's drum riser; during the guitar solo Bono layed across their laps, doing an infant pose)
Until the End of the World
The Unforgettable Fire
City of Blinding Lights
Vertigo
I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (Remix; with snippets of Sly & The Family Stone's "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" and Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Two Tribes")
Sunday Bloody Sunday (with snippet of The Clash's "Rock the Casbah")
MLK
Walk On (dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi; with snippet of "You'll Never Walk Alone")
======
One
Amazing Grace
Where the Streets Have no Name (with snippet of The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love")
Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
With or Without You
Moment of Surrender (dedicated to John McCain, who was in attendance)

1 comment:

The Captain said...

awesome review! thank you. i was there and thought it was pure magic. hot night, music, space and art collided under the desert sky.