Joe Coyle 20/08/2009
Maximo Park once sang:What's my view?/ How am I supposed to know? /Write a review/ How objective can I be? That's how I feel about this gig. How objective can I be about something which has been building in anticipation in my life for the past 4 months? Seeing a band who I only had a passing interest in this time last year and knowing that no matter how much I enjoyed it the person standing next to me would enjoy it more. This gig had anticlimax written all over it.
Under the giant, awe-inspiring 360° claw, Larry Mullen Jnr. walks on stage through a mist of dry ice, sits himself at his drum kit and starts the primeval beat to Breathe and one by one the band join him, Adam, Edge, and finally the ring master Bono. Its a majestic sound which transcends and even surpasses the album version . U2 follow this with three other tracks from their current album including the singles Get on Your Boots and Magnificent. The new tracks have a resonance in the open air with the sun slowly setting behind the giant claw. The music isn't overwhelmed by the spectacle and matches it perfectly. The biggest band of the last 20 years were firing on all cylinders. The crowd reached a fever as the opening bars of Beautiful Day were played and the sing-along began. Then it was straight into Elevation to get the crowd really jumping. I Still Haven't Found What I'm looking For manages to make the biggest gig seem like the most intimate capturing the emotion in note for note perfection. Then a short break to sing Happy Birthday to Willie Williams on his homecoming - he's the stage and light designer who has worked with U2 since 1982 and clearly deserves all the praise heaped on him. The stage and light show is immaculate yet again.
A stripped down version of Stuck in a Moment is followed by Unknown Callerâ€¦, a track from the new album. Luckily it works perfectly as the band have had the foresight to put the lyrics up on the massive screen which envelops the stage and the crowd sing every word. The band are working the entire crowd in 360 degrees using the stage and the walk ways to keep everyone involved. The massive screen above the stage then fragments as it drops down to provide the light show for the next couple of songs. Tonight's sound is amazing, clearly defined and all the band are on form. Bono and Edge are commanding the stage with Adam and Larry providing the rock which greatness is built from. Unforgettable Fire is up next and for a song which is now 25 years old, it still packs a mean punch with its soaring guitars. The line Carnival, wheels fly and colours spin sums up tonight's show perfectly. Its an audio-visual extravaganza. The City of Blinding Lights is accompanied by a predictably epic light show with the video screen now transformed into a series of lights chasing each other around the screen.
Throughout tonight's show your eyes are dragged from one place to another. There is so much going on. As soon as Blinding Lights finishes, Edge's guitar soars again holding the note with disdain and launches into Vertigo which signals mass mayhem down the front. The band now have the crowd firmly in the palm of there hand and if any proof was needed they launch into a unreleased remix of I'll go Crazy if I don't go Crazy Tonight, which features snippets of both Reverend Black Grape by Black Grape and Two Tribes by Frankie goes to Hollywood, which gets all the crowd dancing. Larry kicks off the beat to Sunday Bloody Sunday which still maintains all its relevance today and segues into Oliver's Army by Elvis Costello. The sing-along continues with Pride. Politics arrive with MLK and Walk On. Bono talks about the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her oppression whilst imploring the crowd to wear masks of her. Then towards the end of Walk On, the outer circle of the stage is filled with people wearing that mask. The politics is simple, it feels a little forced and planned, but you are willing to forgive U2 for anything tonight especially as directly after, the distinctive guitar shimmering of Where The Streets Have No Name starts to ring out as the Edge athletically sprints around the now clear outer circle, and the band launch into their anthem with vigour. The crowd sing-along and then are gone.
After 30 or so seconds, Bishop Desmond Tutu is projected on the big screen who delivers another political message. U2 then seem to casually meander through a slightly lacklustre version of One - if there are any low points of the evening, this is the one. 'OK, one more', Bono says as the band start to play Mysterious Ways and all is forgiven again with mass crowd participation and the Edge's guitar slaying everything in front of it. The band then disappear again but the screen stays in it lowest position, obviously the show isn't over yet.
Bono returns wearing a red jacket with lights sown into the seams and the band play Ultraviolet (light my way) as Bono sings and swings from the microphone which has been lowered from the top of the claw, accompanied by a dazzling light show from the top must have lit up all the surrounding area. With or Without is greeted with thousands of people singing as one. During the last song, Moment of Surrender, Bono asks for the lights to be turned off, and a sea of mobile phones light the stadium. A poignant solemn end to the proceedings. U2 gave us songs from 8 albums and have a massive back catalogue to choose from but the set list does run almost perfectly. Moment of Surrender provides a fitting an emotional finish to a great gig musically and visually. The songs still hit an emotional vein to each follower and that's what counts. So, far from being an anticlimax, it was a revelation.U2 continue to set the standard for all other bands to follow on the stadium and arena circuit and long may it continue.