I’ve seen U2 three times prior to this, and usually I’m pumped up weeks before the show. Counting down the days. Perhaps because I was so busy, or hadn’t been completely won over by No Line on the Horizon, I wasn’t as excited as I normally am for a U2 show. That being said, I was still pretty damn excited. This was U2, after all.
I should state that I don’t normally like “big” shows. Besides, U2 the only artist I like in stadiums is Bruce Springsteen. Both artists redefine what can be accomplished within a stadium. Springsteen plays every show like a small club. U2, on the other hand is as big as big gets. Yet, they manage to be both accessible and challenge their audience on a mass scale.
On the way to the show, my friends and I got caught in traffic that took about an hour and a half to drive 7 miles. (Who ever designed FedEx Field – did you ever consider that you might need more than 2 lanes to get in and out?) To pass some of the time, we decided to play more of U2’s more obscure and odd detours. As serious as it is, “The Refugee” from Warcracks me up, with it’s chorus of “whoa whoa whoa! she’s a refugee!” Imagining Bono singing so passionately with his mullet makes it even more hysterical. I’m also willing to bet that we were the only ones playing U2’s version of “Christmas; Baby Please Come Home” on the way to show.
By the time we got to the stadium we had missed Muse, encountered a woman bitching to the employees at the concession that she had to pay $4 for a cup of hot water, and I ate a pretzel that more like a salted damp cloth. When we finally got to our seats, I was amazed by how big the stage was. “The Claw” or “Spaceship” or whatever you call it, was massive. U2 weren’t kidding that wasn’t a bad seat in the house. Because as cool as it would have been to be down on the ground and up close, you would probably miss some of the theatrics of the show. (But more on that later.)
“Ground control to Major Tom,” booms David Bowie’s voice throughout the stadium. I’m already beginning to think that this might be the coolest and greatest show I’ve ever seen, and U2 hasn’t even hit the stage. Then comes Larry Mullen starting the beat off solo for “Breathe” – the first show. And as U2 kicks off their set, I’m overwhelmed by a barrage of media and sound. As I stated before, I wasn’t completely sold by No Line on the Horizon, but the new songs translate really well live. “Magnificent” is given new life live, as The Edge’s shimmering guitar chords echo throughout the stadium.
Some critics and fans might say that U2 has a tendency to rely too much on their greatest hits. But really, what other band starts off a major tour that hasn’t sold completely well (at least in the United States) with three completely brand new songs? The inclusion of “Your Blue Room” from the Passengers record (U2’s side project with Brian Eno) is equally an interesting. Not only does it include some of U2’s most challenging work, but I’m willing to bet that only about 1,000 people in the stadium had that record, or even knew of its existence. The haunting beauty of the slow-burner was a definite highlight for me.
“This is some Zoo-Tv shit,” my one friend whispers to me. And he’s right. The song has link-ups to astronauts in space. (Perhaps as both a nod to “the spaceship” and to “Major Tom”?) By the time of the encore I’m psyched for “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)”. It’s without one of my favorite U2’s songs, and has been ever since I was 11 and listened to my older brother’s cassette of Achtung Baby. Never in my life, did I ever think that I would be hearing this song live.
There are lasers pointing from the stage, and I’m thinking to myself: What the fuck is that? Then I realize that the lights are coming from Bono’s jacket. Only Bono could pull off something as absurd as a jacket with laser lights on it. I suppose in theory as absurd as Ultraviolet’s chorus of “Baby, baby, baby…light my way!” Yet, the reality is – both of these things do work fantastically, even when they probably shouldn’t. Perhaps, that is Bono’s whole point.
By the time of the closer “Moment of Surrender”, I feel a little bit of a let down. I like the song a lot, but it is an odd choice for a closer song. But when the show is over, I know I’ve probably seen one of the best bands ever, putting on one of the best shows of their life.