Live In Concert at
Biggest Rock Band On The Planet. Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton
& Larry Mullen Jr. do not stage mere concerts; they manufacture
events that encompass virtually every form of music under the sun.
Promoting the zillion selling album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb had already seen U2 take the sell out show around America and now, it was Europe's turn and nobody but nobody in the 56,000 sell out audience could be disappointed with what they got.
Supported by up and coming Scottish
band Idlewild - who had a sound reminiscent to The Smiths - and
one of the year's hottest acts, Athlete - who got the crowd into
the swing with some classily performed numbers of their own and some
audience participation that belied their relative inexperience of such
vast venues - the scene was set for THE main attraction.
At 8:20, the stadium lights dimmed on
a warm summer evening and U2 strolled onto the stage with the
backbeat of an unknown fanfare greeting them. Bono waves, sinks
to one knee, introduces the band to the two people in the audience who
are unlikely to know their names and then shouts "Uno, dos, tres,
catorce!" into the mic to introduce the tour-title track "Vertigo"
sending the crowd into apoplexy.
The massive sound system sends out a
bass, guitar and drum rhythm that would drown out most vocalists; not
so Paul Hewson. Bono has the range that could out-fly
Concorde in its prime and its clarity and ability to fill the arena
But more of that later!
The hits kept on a coming.
U2 have been around thirty years
and have amassed a back-catalogue that is abnormal in its popularity.
Yes they have their detractors - but do they really have any equals?
"I Will Follow" and "The
Electric Co." from the debut album Boy followed at a pace
that increased the fervour to a height of frenzy. Bono in full
flight is a sight to behold, whereas The Edge just does what
he does so well - jagging out the guitar riffs with aplomb.
"Elevation" started off quietly
then exploded into life, with Bono imploring the crowd to 'sing it for
us', which they did with gusto and delight.
"New Year's Day" reminded
everyone of the unique style that U2 have and of the deftness of touch
that their lyrics possess, whereas "Beautiful Day" - on a
football pitch and, with this being the theme for ITV's football coverage
- makes for mimed kicking scenes of delight from the crowd who are enjoying
This gig was so well organised, both
on and off stage, that the pitch had been sub-divided into areas, number
controlled by security. In the very front section there was so much
room, a game of five-a-side could take place and people could get to
and from toilets, bars and snack counters and not be in fear of losing
their place, courtesy of a stamp being applied to the hand that granted
No need then for the paltry portions
of cheese smuggled in to the ground when survival rations were confiscated
at the entrance.
The time had come for the foot to be
removed from the pedal just a little, without threatening to dull the
intensity of what had been built. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm
Looking For" was played with moving sincerity and finished for
the band by the crowd, who repeated the title over and over and over
again, with much applause from Bono for their efforts.
The new single "The City Of Blinding
Lights" saw the massive grid-like backdrop come into its own for
the first time, as the City Of Manchester Stadium was bathed
in wave upon wave of neon as the quickened trip around various capitols
of the world at night, was beamed from the screen. Then came the deliciously
moving "When All I Want Is You" which was sung with such grace
and emotion that grown men wept ... literally ... or reached for their
ladies to embrace. "Miracle Drug" was played to a the rhythm
of a heart monitor picking up momentum that might well have matched
Larry Mullen Jr's, as he hammered out a faultless tempo that steers
and guides the band unerringly from behind.
On this night of many highlights, the
first arrives in seeing a 90 foot tall Bono as a ghostly apparition
as it appears beside a walking dummy-man of equal proportions. "Sometimes
You Can' Make It On Your Own" provided this image, as the singer
sang with haunting quality, the song that he dedicated to his late father.
"Love And Peace Or Else" saw
Adam Clayton wander upfront, along with Larry Mullen Jr. to strut
their stuff before a the throng at the end of the catwalks that took
the band into the crowd throughout, only for Bono to take over
the percussion to give an impromptu solo of his own, before swapping
sunglasses and taking photographs of the audience with their own cameras.
The familiar sound of the opening beats
of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" reverberated around and the crowd
chant in all of the right places with as much enthusiasm as when the
song was first played.
Nothing is going to stop this lot now.
"Bullet The Blue Sky" was
quickly followed by possibly the most beautiful of U2's vast
number of songs "Running To Stand Still" which Bono
dedicated to all poor nations, whilst the Declaration Of Human Rights
scrolled behind him in ten-foot high letters.
Bono took the opportunity here
to come up with a further highlight for somebody in the crowd. He swapped
his leather jacket bedecked in several flags and badges, for a pennant
bearing the motif of the Live 8 movement, with a lucky lady near
the front of the catwalk.
An item that she is sure to treasure
forever and a day.
Arguably the finest single that U2
have ever released "One" from the magnificent Achtung Baby
album, brought the show to an end, with the plasma screens imploring
people to text Africa, their name and to send it 80205.
The band retuned, with the plasma screens
snowed out and a minute figure of Bono in silhouette in one corner,
dressed as a New York cop. The main grid, meanwhile, pulsed with strobes
of red and white and green before "Zoostation" exploded forth
to be rapidly followed by "The Fly". "With Or Without
You" made a rare appearance through this tour, during which Bono
danced with a particularly lucky young lady from the audience, although
he did seem just a might surprised that she was there at all. What a
tune on which to end an encore. Evocative & mellow, the king soft
centre in this giant box of chocolates
The reason for the texts? To raise money
for the financing of Live 8 mainly, but also to give the chance
for audience members to see their names up in ten-foot high white letters
being scrolled before their peers. This is what happened as U2
took to the stage again to sing "Yahweh".
There really is nothing quite like it
for the egotists amongst the assembled.
Stupid question really!
'Uno, Dos, Tres, Catorce' he called
again and "Vertigo" resumed with a hard, pulsing bass
and drum beat that could potentially destroy the inner ear and made
the stomach churn.
Then, with words "The End"
displayed in vivid red lights and at 10:50 pm, U2 were waving
their goodbyes and were gone.
U2: Vertigo was not by any means a concert. It even does it an injustice to call it an event. An Experience - a moving, passionate, awe inspiring spectacle - that defied the boundaries of professionalism, that should be a must on any concert goers itinerary for the coming dates, best describes this wondrous show.
Vertigo, I Will Follow, Electric Co, Elevation, New Year's Day, Beautiful Day, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, City Of Blinding Lights, When All I Want Is You, Miracle Drug, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, Love And Peace Or Else, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet The Blue Sky, Running To Stand Still, Pride (In The Name Of Love), Where The Streets Have No Name, One, Zoostation, The Fly, With Or Without You, Yahweh, Vertigo (reprise)
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Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit. - Chris High 2003.
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