Seeing U2 in concert was high up on my sister’s and my “bucket list.” We used to joke around, saying, “We have to see them before either we die or they die!” We really didn’t expect for such a time to ever come. But, it did. And it won’t be soon forgotten. Especially since I came down with the flu the morning of the concert. Still, that didn’t dissuade me from attending the show. And I don’t regret ever doing so.
Anyone who is a U2 fan knows that they put on a fantastic live show. You can draw this conclusion from simply watching a live performance on television or a DVD. Let me tell you, their live show must be experienced in person in order to fully be appreciated. They put in massive amounts of energy and passion into their musicianship and Bono puts heart and compassion into his human rights activism throughout the show. It’s not preachy, but informative. If anything, it will make you appreciate what he and his fellow advocates have done for so many people throughout the world.
U2’s “360 Tour” is aptly named because of the gargantuan stage, dubbed “The Claw,” and its ability to rotate 360 degrees, giving the entire audience a front-view of the band. I must dedicate this paragraph to the stage alone because this thing was a piece of work. It was the single most impressive thing I think I have ever seen. Lit-up, it looked like a spaceship (a term which Bono used several times himself). With the stadium roof open and a beam of light shooting up into the night sky, one couldn’t help but feel like they were gazing upon something other-worldly. Whoever programmed U2’s light show is a creative genius. Every light bulb served a special purpose and coincided beautifully with each song. I have to say that my favorite lighting performance was during “With or Without You” (which just happens to be my favorite U2 song). Bono enlisted the help of the audience with this one and asked them to create “a celestial body” by means of cell phone lights. This created the effect that one was floating along in a star-filled sky with the U2 mother ship safely hovering nearby, blasting out sweet, melodic sounds for the entire galaxy to enjoy. It’s a beautiful image, isn’t it?
About a month before my concert in Houston, I stumbled across a set list from one of U2’s shows earlier in the tour. I was thoroughly excited after reading it, because the band included a healthy dose of old and new and even a few surprises. They didn’t change the set list much once they arrived in Texas. In fact, they substituted one song (“Unknown Caller”) for the fan favorite “Mysterious Ways,” a decision that I don’t whole-heartedly disagree with. With that said, the set list was pretty much perfect and I had no complaints in that area at all!
The band opened their space-themed expedition with “Breathe” and continued to rock it with “Get on Your Boots” and “Magnificent.” Next came “Mysterious Ways,” to which Bono pulled up a (female) member of the audience and proceeded to dance with her until the end of the song. Let’s just say that she was pretty happy about it all. After this, the band launched into “Beautiful Day” and Bono concluded the tune with a chorus from “Here Comes the Sun.” Next up was the classic “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and once again Bono tagged on a line from “Stand By Me” at the end.
The following song was one of my favorites of the night. The Edge put down his electric guitar (something we rarely see) and strapped on his acoustic for a stripped down version of “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.” It was a beautiful rendition of the song and The Edge even took the spotlight when he sang lead vocals on the bridge. It was one of the moments that stood out in my already fading-mind and I wish I could re-live it again with clarity!
After the title track of U2’s latest album, “No Line on the Horizon,” the crowd rode a musical “high” with “Elevation.” This was one of the moments during the concert when the audience were thoroughly enjoying themselves and made a lot of noise. For an older guy, Bono showed everyone that he still had the energy in him and he jumped all around the stage for this one. Since we were in Houston, Bono spent a lot of time talking about NASA and the space program. The band had made a trip to mission control the previous day and had dinner with several of the astronauts and their families, whom were in attendance at the show. “Your Blue Room” was dedicated to them and the big screen featured some footage from NASA.
The Edge wasn’t the only one to receive some well-deserved spotlight. Larry made his way in front of the drum set and played the bongos for “Until the End of the World.” Then the band went way back and played “The Unforgettable Fire” to much of the crowd’s delight. Up next was my sister’s favorite U2 song, “City of Blinding Lights.” Anyone who is a fan knows that this is a spectacular song live. It possessed such symbolism with the stage being lit up and the crowd singing back to Bono, “Oh, you look so beautiful tonight…” After this, the band kept things going with “Vertigo” and a re-mix of “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight.”
The audience was already fired up, but they really got going with “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and its pulsing drums and anthematic message. Continuing in the same vein, Bono spoke a bit about Burma’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her work as a human rights activist. Because of her beliefs, she was kept under house arrest for many years. He dedicated “MLK” and “Walk On” to her and her cause. During this, a long row of people bearing masks with Kyi’s face marched out onto the circular stage and stayed there for the remainder of the song.
The always moving “One” was next and then something quite unexpected happened. Bono stood on a darkened stage with a lone spotlight shining upon him and sang the first verse to “Amazing Grace.” This lead into “Where the Streets Have No Name” and whether it be that the old hymn sparked a fire within the crowd or the song itself impacted them, the audience was the very loudest during this performance. “With or Without You” and it’s “celestial body” followed and then the grand finale, ‘The Moment of Surrender” finished the night off. After the show, I certainly felt like surrendering – to some Tylenol and a bed. But, more than that, I felt like I had surrendered to a night of amazing music, brilliant stage work, and an energetic atmosphere. I can honestly say it was nothing short of supernatural.