Opening Act(s): Lenny Kravitz
Even Better Than The Real Thing, I Will Follow, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent, The Great Curve - Mysterious Ways, Elevation, Until The End Of The World, Happy Birthday, All I Want Is You, Stay (Faraway, So Close!) - In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning, Beautiful Day - Space Oddity, Pride (In The Name Of Love), Miss Sarajevo, Zooropa, City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo - Are You Gonna Go My Way, I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (Remix) - Discotheque - Life During Wartime - Psycho Killer, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Scarlet, Walk On - You'll Never Walk Alone. Encore(s): One - United We Stand, Will You Love Me Tomorrow - Where The Streets Have No Name, Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, With Or Without You, Moment Of Surrender.
For the first time in the band's history, U2 invite their manager Paul McGuinness on stage. The day prior was his 60th birthday and Bono leads the audience in singing "Happy Birthday" to him. Bono also dedicates "Stay" to Chris Blackwell and "Pride" to Maria Shriver as both are in attendance at the concert.
Orange County Register
U2 masterful but not magical at Angel Stadium
by Ben Wener
Stadium concerts, those nearly fossilized dinosaurs of the music biz, are noble beasts unlike any other events, including ballyhooed international festivals that attract five times as many people as can fit inside the Big A.
Setting aside massive multi-band attractions, whether fluff (Wango Tango) or fury (July's L.A. Rising, already sold out at the Coliseum), there are scarce few superstars popular enough to even headline a stadium, which is reason alone to be impressed by U2's latest viewable-from-space creation, which has taken over Angel Stadium this weekend. The number of icons who have come to Southern California in the dozen years between the launch of this ongoing (if momentarily delayed) 360 Tour and the Irishmen's last enormous outing, 1997's magnificent flop PopMart, well, they can be counted on one injured hand.
There are the Rolling Stones and Madonna, and then Madonna and the Rolling Stones. Add the Police at Dodger Stadium, with Foo Fighters, who could fill that place on their own now. Metallica qualifies, though they had help at the Coliseum. Green Day played Home Depot Center, if that counts. Am I forgetting anyone?
Tack on Dave Matthews Band and maybe Phish and there isn't much else short of an 'N Sync reunion that could fill a ballpark these days. Springsteen and McCartney and Buffett can -- but I'm grateful they choose not to, just as U2 did for a decade. They've all realized (as have Madge and the Stones) that no matter how grand the spectacle becomes or how hearty the singalongs remain, there's still an insurmountable distance between audience and performer at such mammoth locations. Some people are just too far away to be reached.
Even sitting relatively close Friday night, just off the general-admission field along the first-base line, I sometimes felt like our section might as well have been in a different area code. But, then, some people in my section -- and I bet any other chosen at random -- weren't there for the performance anyway.
That's the nature of stadium shows: As much as they garner fanatics from far and wide (I heard of people flying here from Australia, and I suspect thousands drove up from San Diego), they also pull in a larger than normal share of radio-fed lookie-loos who are here primarily to say they were there.
Die-hards of any artists (though especially U2 fans, and Springsteen's) love to kid themselves into thinking that every last person among 50,000-plus paid triple-digit prices and trudged through traffic because they're just so passionate about the band. Nonsense. I suspect at least half the crowd at these Angel Stadium concerts is only acquainted with live U2 from award-show appearances and video clips.
Plenty of people Friday night probably wound up with a ticket because, oh, Dad bought four and it's a family outing, or "it's my boyfriend's favorite band," or they're tagging along to finally silence that Bonomaniac friend from the office who never shuts up about how everyone must see these guys at least once. I doubt there are many souls left on Earth who can't hum at least one U2 melody. (That's when you know you're as big as the Beatles, never mind Jesus.) But I think there are lots of folks who say they love U2 yet can't sing the chorus of more than five hits. Can't shake the feeling that an inordinate amount of those people are turning up in Anaheim.
You can tell from the cheers. The most obvious and overplayed (and great, definitely great) songs drew the hugest responses out of instant recognition, that gone-bananas sound you get at the outset of "Roxanne" or "Born to Run" -- or "I Will Follow." Never ceases to amaze me how that happens.
Take "Where the Streets Have No Name," an amazing composition, with tremendous galloping strength packing a heady rush of liberation that is still gripping no matter how many times you encounter it. Yet the roar that greeted its cathartic keyboard swell suggested people at the Big A felt lucky to hear it, regardless how frequently U2 plays it. (It would be easier to figure how often they haven't.) That's when you know you're in the thick of a populist crowd -- when the equivalents of "Satisfaction" and "Hey Jude" reap OMG responses.
So here's the good news, neophytes: If Friday night was your first time, you can honestly say your deflowering came via a very memorable performance, rife with passionate vocal delivery from Bono (notably during "Beautiful Day" and "City of Blinding Lights" halfway in) plus the unerring benchmark playing of one of the few bands of such high caliber still left intact.
But that much you should have expected. U2 is fairly incapable of putting on a mediocre show.
There may be times when you can sense them following cues too stiffly, and there's no accounting for audio- visual problems caused by seat location; the further away you get, the more the vocals get lost in the mix and a gale force of white noise takes over.
No matter, though: Even under the worst conditions -- and these were better ones overall than at the Rose Bowl in October 2009 -- you're still going to get shining examples of the Edge's one-of-a-kind chiming fretwork, ringing out at gloriously loud volume ... of silver-haired Adam Clayton and still-crop-topped Larry Mullen Jr.'s lead-footed kaboom, heavy horsepower that's steady as a rock ... or of Bono wailing like his soul's just been raptured as he soars past high notes.
Standout moments were abundant, to be sure: the robust build to a romantic peak in "All I Want Is You," followed by the starker emotional outcry of an acoustic "Stay (Faraway, So Close!!)," was about as magnetic as I've seen this all-too-stoic bunch get in a stadium. But as much fun as it is to have the mighty U2 play twice mere minutes from home, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to having seen better performances over the years.
They can't all have that inexplicable in-the-moment magic that flashed repeatedly at the Rose Bowl. This one was very good -- even VERY good. It just didn't have enough of that magic.
Granted, that can't be easy to flip on like a switch, though they certainly try. Kudos as well for not obscuring their message with too much gloss.
PopMart unquestionably had more visual impact than this monolith -- I don't think anything, not even Madonna's grandest productions, has measured up to the gigantic drive-in screen that dwarfed them at the Coliseum. The wall of multimedia assault that was the ZooTV array, which appeared at Angel Stadium in 1992 -- that had an overwhelming totality about it, too. The band was incredible back then, seemingly reinventing itself with each new season. But there was so much eye-grabbing dazzle on stage, it almost didn't matter how great the music was.
This 360 Tour is a bold move that's more back to basics than its 167-foot-high claw-like structure would lead you to believe. That monster is as static as the band itself can be -- apart from spewing smoke from spires and bouncing colored light off a crowning mirror ball, it's not a very malleable vision. It engulfs the outfield, encircling pits full of lucky fans with catwalks joined by moving bridges. There's an expandable 360 screen directly above the band, and the on-the-spot footage it displays is compelling. (Some people probably looked at little else.)
But that contraption doesn't have much other function -- only briefly does it expand enough to fully envelope the group, as "Miss Sarajevo" gives way to "Zooropa." Which means the performance is still centered on the very thing that, in arenas, remains so arresting even with scant visuals: just U2, standing there, making inspired music. Having long ago learned their mistake with PopMart -- the lesson: don't let gimmicks swallow you whole -- they've wisely retained what's so intrinsically appealing them live, even on the largest stage in rock history.
And still something about Friday night was lacking.
I liked how the loneliness and uncertainty of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" became a recurring theme -- it not only played as the band took the stage but was quoted later in the set by Cmdr. Mark Kelly, in a transmission sent back from the International Space Station. ("Tell my wife I love her very much - she knows," he said, quoting Bowie in the thick of "Beautiful Day," which had been dedicated to his missus, miraculously recovering congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.)
I also got a charge out of Bono hamming it up for the cameras during "Elevation" and his laser-filled microphone-swinging during a dry-ice-drenched "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me," which kicked off the second encore. Sounds hypocritical, given how I prefer U2 as scaled-back as possible, but I'd argue for more theatricality this time. Sail over the top and dig deep intro dramatics. Give us more than just a trace of the old MacPhisto. Wow us with something other than just your presence and another ginormous stage that makes you look like ants.
The Rose Bowl show, by comparison, felt like a celebration of all things marvelous and enduring about U2: musical firepower, thematic timelessness, the uplifting spirit of even its most tired performances.
This gig, however, felt more like a world-class band running through a game plan, despite two personal touches: 1) Longtime manager Paul McGuinness turned 60 the night before, so they brought him on stage -- for the first time in U2's 30-plus-year history -- to hear the crowd sing "Happy Birthday to You." 2) Chris Blackwell, the Island Records chief who signed these Irishmen back when they were turning 20, was in the house in Anaheim. So was Maria Shriver, to whom "Pride (In the Name of Love)" was dedicated, as well as lots of Amnesty International and ONE Campaign bigwigs -- and pastor Rick Warren, who got a shout-out at the end.
It isn't just that the Pasadena performance (the penultimate date of the 2009 tour, just before Halloween) was more auspicious, streamed on YouTube and filmed for DVD release before a record-crushing attendance. It's also that it presented U2 in road-seasoned form -- they'd been playing much the same set with few breaks since launching in Barcelona at the end of June. These later stretches of dates, on the other hand, starting up again last November, have come in spurts, presumably to keep from overtaxing Bono as he regains post-operation normalcy. (Need it be restated, emergency spinal surgery last summer delayed these O.C. dates by a year.)
Check the itinerary: There were 10 shows Down Under, roughly between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and nearly two months after the last European leg ended. South Africa scored two gigs in February. Seven South American shows took place in late March and early April. And the second North American leg finally kicked off a month ago in Mexico City (the first of three shows at the Azteca there). A half-dozen dates past that and U2 has finally returned to Southern California, 10 days since their last performance, in Oakland.
Those stop-start factors don't necessarily leave Bono and the boys at their automatic best; they have to try harder, and sometimes don't always find that elusive spark that transforms an ordinary show into an exceptional one. Fired-up though he was Friday night -- and right off the bat, egging on both the crowd and Mullen during "Even Better Than the Real Thing" -- Mr. Hewson still showed signs of needing to shake off that weird mix of Hollywood jitters and jaded-by-L.A. lethargy that seems to afflict him so often when he performs here.
Why do I have a hunch Night 2 is going to be the night?
And why do I suspect I'm not the only one grumbling that the show was too short at just two hours? The setlist is chock-full of sweet stuff, although pre-Joshua Tree material continues to get the shaft (a straightforward "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is all you can add to the two older titles already mentioned, "Pride" and "I Will Follow"). It's a well-chosen helping overall, balancing a dozen staples with just as many new-album bits (the dance remix of "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" is a jarring but not unwelcome twist) and deep cuts ("Zooropa" is out of left field, and for me ranks high among the most entrancing moments Friday).
All the same, there's just not enough, not when you think of what's been left out: Where's "New Year's Day"? "Bad"? "Bullet the Blue Sky"? "Desire"? "Angel of Harlem"? "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"? "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of"? And will we ever hear "A Sort of Homecoming" again?
Frankly, to allow more time for a lengthier dip into the catalog, I'd have done away with opening acts altogether.
This will sound pouty, because other cities got Pearl Jam or My Morning Jacket in warm-up sets while we've had first the Black Eyed Peas (groan) and now Lenny Kravitz, who played it smartly and solidly: after a funky big-bam-boom to open, he jammed through hit after hit after hit, from "American Woman" to "Fly Away" to "Let Love Rule" to "Are You Gonna Go My Way." Formulaic retro-rocker though he is, I like Kravitz quite a lot, in part because so many people don't. This set proved he can be a rousing crowd-killer when he wants to be.
Yet, as with the Peas, his services weren't required to sell tickets or entertain an audience already well-hyped for the headliner. Given a 7 p.m. ticket time (Lenny came on at 7:30) and no opener, U2 could have come on by 8-ish and delivered a three-hour bonanza touching on all facets of its history. It's asking a lot that they top themselves this far down the line. But so far this Angel Stadium experience plays only like a highlights reel.
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