Opening Act(s): The BoDeans, Los Lobos
Where The Streets Have No Name, I Will Follow, Trip Through Your Wires, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, MLK, The Unforgettable Fire, Exit, In God's Country, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Help, Bad, October, New Year's Day, Pride (In The Name Of Love). Encore(s): Bullet The Blue Sky, Running To Stand Still, With Or Without You, 40.
The Advocate, December 4, 1987
U2 Unites B.C. Place
by Rashas Weber
There is only one band I will travel great distances to see. In 1985 I went to San Francisco; this year I made the pilgrimage to Vancouver, British Columbia, since the band was so kind as to neglect Portland a second time. But U2 is akin to a religious experience for me and I had to see them on The Joshua Tree tour.
After viewing the crowds at the B.C. Place Stadium - about 57,000 fans - I am still amazed at how much U2's following has grown since I first became aware of them in 1982. But U2 has usually managed to "break down the barriers between the stage and the audience," and to create a great unity. With their exploding popularity, I would see if the magic still worked.
The Bodeans and Los Lobos both played amazing opening sets, managing to fill the cavernous stadium with little effort. The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" was the last song on U2's pre-show tape, and then the lights went down.
The hushed synthesizer opening of "Where The Streets Have No Name" echoed throughout the stadium as guitarist The Edge (David Evans), drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bassist Adam Clayton took their places. The lead singer Bono (Paul Hewson) appeared and the concert took off.
A slightly slowed version of "I Will Follow" from 1981's Boy gave the fans a taste of the band's earlier music, and then U2 took a rollicking' "Trip Through Your Wires."
"This is a gospel song for a restless spirit," said Bono, introducing "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," with Mullen providing a touch of tambourine.
The gorgeous ballad "MLK" was followed by "The Unforgettable Fire," and the stage was awash in red and yellow lights. The striking visuals highlighted the dreamy quality of the song.
"In God's Country" featured great harmonies by The Edge and excellent drumming by Mullen. Bono said afterwards, "It seems like we've got the whole world in here tonight."
The band broke into "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and although the song is universal in its political message, Bono spoke out angrily against the recent bombing by the Irish Republican Army in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.
"Eleven dead and 55 wounded, courtesy of the IRA. There's no glory in a revolution that takes men, women and children's lives," he said, and sang the number with great fervor. Thousands of voices echoed Bono's impassioned "No more," as the audience joined his protest against violence.
Unfortunately, a weak acoustic version of the Beatles' "Help" followed miserably behind, but the ethereal "Bad" took up the slack. Bono sang a part of Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side," and also brought a girl onstage to slow dance with.
Then U2 shifted gears, with The Edge on electric piano for the classical "October," a short piece off their album of the same name. Then The Edge alternated between guitar and keyboard on the inspiring "New Year's Day," complimented by Clayton's strong bass line.
Closing the set was U2's stirring tribute to the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.: "Pride (In the Name of Love)." The audience sang the chorus under Bono's request to "Sing it for Stephen Biko, sing it for the Reverend Martin Luther King!"
The Edge opened the first encore with an ambitious rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "The Star-Spangled Banner," before sliding into "Bullet The Blue Sky," a seething denouncement of the United States' involvement in El Salvador. The song was just right for stadium sound, and Bono finished his biting commentary of Ronald Reagan by stating, "I saw that rock 'n' roll could do what the politicians could not. And that's unite people, not divide them."
Bono played harmonica on the bluesy "Running To Stand Still," a song about the effects of heroin addiction, and then called his seductive vocals into play on "With Or Without You." Clayton's throbbing bass and The Edge's exquisite guitar work complimented Bono's sultry lyrics.
For the second encore, Bono said thanks to "Edge, Adam and Larry for letting me be in the band." U2 finished their hour-and-45-minute concert with the spiritual "40," and the audience kept the chorus of "How long to sing this song" going long after the band left the stage.
The stadium lights came on, but the ambiance of goodwill did not disappear with the band. Amnesty International members benefited from the social consciousness that U2 raises, their petitions to free political prisoners filling with signatures of concertgoers.
U2 as individuals are not necessarily extraordinary. But the catalyst comes from the combination of the four distinct personalities. Onstage the quartet is particularly potent.
Bono is an effective frontman; instead of overt sexuality and hedonistic behavior, he exudes a strong sensuality blended with intelligence. With few inhibitions, he opens up emotionally and physically onstage.
The shy Mullen takes refuge behind his drums, laying down the rhythm with the bookish-looking, eccentric Clayton. The Edge blends the different influences together in brilliant, shimmering melodies that break from more traditional paths of rock 'n' roll in search of new avenues.
The live effect is a marked difference from U2's studio work. The passion of the vocals and the power of the music make for quite an experience. Although the sound was badly distorted at times, due to the volume necessary to fill the stadium, U2 still managed to create a feeling of unity.
After the more intimate shows U2 did earlier in their career, it is a bit of a disappointment to see the move to stadium shows, but demand offers no other viable option. However, U2 is adjusting quite well and is able to still bridge the ever-widening gap between the stage and the audience, for the most part. I am glad to say the magic is still present.
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