Opening Act(s): Kanye West
City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, Elevation, I Will Follow, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For-In A Little While, Beautiful Day-Happy Christmas, Original Of The Species, Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own, Love And Peace Or Else, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet The Blue Sky, Miss Sarajevo, Pride (In The Name Of Love), Where The Streets Have No Name, One, Help, Instant Karma!. Encore(s): Until The End Of The World, Mysterious Ways, With Or Without You, Yahweh, 40.
At the final Vertigo concert of the year, fans greet the band with a display of red glowsticks as the show starts, and displays of THANK YOU signs during Elevation and One. Bono is surprised by the gesture (before Elevation he says ‘No, thank you!’ and then asks The Edge and Adam how to say ‘thank you’ in Gaelic). During several songs, Bono thanks members of the crew by name. He sprays champagne on the crowd at one point, and mentions ‘going home’ many times. In between the 1st and 2nd encores, the entire crew stands around the ellipse, wearing single-letter t-shirts that spell out THE U2 CREW WOULD LIKE TO THANK EDGE BONO LARRY AND ADAM FOR A GREAT 2005.
Relevance rockets from U2’s inspiring spectacle of a show
Bono - If the music wasn’t quite stellar, at least the band walks its talk magnificently
by MARTY HUGHLEY
You have to wonder how Bill and Melinda Gates celebrated.
On the day the Seattle billionaire philanthropists made the cover of Time magazine as “Persons of the Year” for 2005, the fellow who shared that honor with them — some Irish guy with a made-up name and a big mouth — sang for joy.
And for hope, for pain, for yearning, for truth, for struggle, for unity, for kindness and justice, peace and love.
Bono, honored for his activism on issues of global poverty and health, sang with his band U2 on Monday night at the Rose Garden arena, and together they put the lie to something once said by an earlier Time honoree, 1958 “Man of the Year” Charles de Gaulle: “Nothing enhances authority better than silence.”
The former French president’s maxim might hold true for politicians, but not for rock stars. Never mind for the moment how rare it is to be able to speak of rock stars with moral authority; Bono and his indispensable cohorts, bassist Adam Clayton, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and guitarist the Edge, enhanced theirs with more than two hours of glorious noise.
It is possible, perhaps likely, that this wasn’t the band at its finest. In the early part of the set, on songs such as the stirring opener “City of Blinding Lights,” “Elevation” and the classic “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” Bono’s voice lacked the flexibility to find the notes comfortably. “Vertigo,” for one song, lacked the sort of forward thrust that makes the album version such a pure rock rush, and as great as the band sounded most of the time, it didn’t seem to find that elusive high gear that inspired veterans can reach on the right night.
And yet, that hardly mattered. Whether or not this was one of the best shows ever to hit the Rose Garden, it surely was among the most inspiring.
After all, it can’t be easy to come out night after night in front of thousands of expectant fans and be not simply entertaining but majestic.
The 21st-century superstar concert experience is, of course, partly about performance. But $160 tickets become justifiable with the addition of two things: spectacle and meaning.
U2 delivered spectacle with lighting effects that were dazzling yet never overdone, employing circles of tracer lights along the borders of the elliptical stage set, a half-dozen shuttlecock-like chandeliers, and huge, retractable curtains of golf-ball-sized reflective beads. Still, many of the show’s most powerful moments came with nothing but plain white light, when the ringing guitar architecture of, say, “Pride (in the Name of Love)” dovetailed with the years of personal associations fans have with the song. Often, the crowd nearly took over the songs, singing refrains loudly, passionately, beautifully.
It may seem cliched to speak of chills and goosebumps, but they were everywhere in this show. The stark opening to “I Will Follow” still sounds, after 25 years, like a clarion call to the spirit, the first flowering of a genius for motif and tone that Edge has continued to cultivate. And Bono telling the crowd, “America! This is your song now!” as the band launched into “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” then tucking “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” into the middle of “Bullet the Blue Sky,” moved me to tears.
War and peace are longtime components of the U2 dynamic, and Bono bolstered one side of that equation by evoking the spirit of John Lennon repeatedly, adding bits of “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” to a couple of tunes and leading a wonderfully raw cover of “Instant Karma.” Perhaps more than any other rock band, though, U2 has taken its peace-and-love ideals beyond sloganeering, and into not just the streets, with grass-roots organizing by the anti-poverty One Campaign, but into the corridors of world power.
And Monday night’s show was a wonderful celebration of all of that.
Marty Hughley: 503-221-8383; [email protected]
All photos by © Catzy; © greg; © David Klatt; © gavin jensen