Saturday, August 15, 2009

U2, as always, were amazing.

The 360 degree stage set-up aka The Claw was an incredible feat of technology and definitely something that only the biggest band in the world could afford. It was great for someone like me, given that I a) am not that tall and b) wasn't standing right at the front and able to see the stage. The video set-up was such that no matter where you were at the stadium, you could see everything happening (at least, for the big songs, as some of the other songs featured graphics instead).

Elbow was the supporting act for U2. I'll repeat that: the supporting act. A band which has been around for 11 years, and won the Mercury Music Prize last year was U2's warm-up act. U2 have always been able to attract some incredibly big names as their supporting act - Kanye West, Pearl Jam, Snow Patrol - and this just reflects just how awesome this band is. They've been around for ages, and have been the at the top of their game for the greater part of my life, and that's most definitely no small feat. Even though, like most fans, I prefer their older stuff to their more recent stuff, there's always been a song in every one of their albums I really enjoy. Magnificent off No Line on the Horizon Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own off How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, Walk On and Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of on All That You Can't Leave Behind... the list goes on.

U2 kicked off the concert with four songs off NLOTH: Breathe, No Line on the Horizon, Get on Your Boots and Magnificent. I still think Get On Your Boots isn't that great a song, in part because of silly lyrics and also because it's just not that strong a song, but Magnificent definitely belongs in the 'stadium rock' category. With Bono's yearning vocals and The Edge's soaring guitar work, this is most definitely a song meant to be played to and sung by the masses (and that's not a bad thing!). 

After that, they went into some of the older stuff. I guess it felt a little like travelling through time, from their more recent songs into the classics, and that might be a painfully obvious thing to state as any concert by any established band tends to feel like that, but I felt this a lot more with U2, and I've been to quite a few concerts in my time. 

For me, the concert didn't really turn into the crowd-rocking experience I wanted it to be until they launched into I Still Haven't Found (What I'm Looking For) which was truly spectacular, and then into an acoustic version of Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of which featured just The Edge and Bono sounding incredibly soulful and simple, which isn't your typical U2 sound. I really enjoyed the latter as the song's definitely something I can relate to at this point in time. Heck, I could probably relate to any U2 song at any moment in time, and that's why they're such a great band, because of their ability to write music that touches people.

Other stand-out moments for me were I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight which turned Wembley Stadium into a giant rave venue for a couple of minutes with the house beats and amazing clubby lights, Unknown Caller which I think is an incredibly stupid song but which made me crack up with the lyrics being displayed and lighted up a la karaoke on the giant screen, Where the Streets Have No Name, which must have the most amazing guitar intro of all-time because it always gets me just there, and Walk On, which was dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Say what you like about U2's soapboxing - which is really just down to Bono, and not the other three, to be fair - but it is effective. Because of just how big they are, they're able to focus people's attention on matters which would otherwise escape notice. And they can't be accused of doing something because they're trying to expand Ireland's influence, that's for sure. 

The one thing I'll admit to being disappointed by? That they didn't play Stay (Faraway, So Close!). Yes, it's not a typical feature on their setlist (they haven't performed it on tour since 2001), but they have played it a few times so far on this tour (Berlin, Dublin, Gothenburg and Zagreb) and I was really hoping their first night in London would be one of the rare times. Damn. I swear the day I finally get to experience this song live, I'll break down and cry.

Still, U2 live is a truly incredible experience, and I'm lucky enough to have seen them three times. I saw U2:3D earlier this year as well, and while that was almost as good as going to a concert seeing as it's almost as if you're on the stage with them, I think standing in a crowd full of fellow fans, getting to jump up and there and just go crazy, knowing full well that the view's better in the seating area but the atmosphere's ten times better where you are... Enough said.

"It's summer and you're not at the beach, so you must really want to be here!" Bono said midway, almost as if he couldn't believe why anyone would want to spend a lovely summer evening with the best band ever. Silly man.

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