Category Archives: U2
Some info about the venue: While Staples Center can appear as an imposing and uber-tall facility, The Forum felt cozier, less intimidating and more fan friendly, offering better vantage points from just about every seat, unlike Staples Center. Initially I was kind of bummed out that we were up in the 24th row. As it turned out, anyone in row 10 or above in the upper level got the most out of the stage production and video screen. In order to truly appreciate the giant screen and its related effects, you have to be sitting perpendicular to the stage and in the upper sections. I finally got to experience that mega-screen in all its glory, and sequences that didn’t quite work for the fans stuck behind the stage or on the opposite far end, were finally brought to full realization for those with direct line of sight. Luckily on this night, Both Erica and I saw what the band intended us to see. We were excited to see what the group had in store for us this night. To whet our appetites, one of the guitar techs was demoing Edge’s Gibson Explorer and began playing the main riff to “Bad,” leading to a big, collective “Yeaaaahhh!!!” We were pumped.
From the moment Bono entered the arena and began the chant for “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone),” I knew that this show would be different, energy-wise. The crowd was into this new track, and it sounded more powerful and jolting than the versions performed on 5/19 and 5/27. The crowd joined in on the opening “woah oh ohs” and Bono responded “THAT’s the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard!” to a roar of approval. Larry’s drums felt like artillery. There was greater definition and velocity without sacrificing sound quality. I could feel Adam’s bass rumble under my seat and reverberate throughout my body, and Edge’s guitar lines and Bono’s vocals floated above all that glorious low end. It was crystal clear, and the crowd was getting into it. Bono’s singing was great, flawless, and spirited. “The Miracle” sounded so cool, it chugged along and the choruses were catchy and prompted a sing-along. Before I had a mild interest in the song, and finally on night 3 I was loving it. This crowd was awake and then some.
The following selections went down well and the crowd response was excellent, rabid even. “Electic Co.” returned and continued the rockin’, jumping pace. Did I mention I love singing along with The Edge? ESPECIALLY on the choruses to “Electric Co.” There’s not much to that chorus but there’s still something about Edge singing ‘E-lec-tric coh-oh-ohhhh’ that still gives me chills, that glorious feeling. ’“Vertigo” and I Will Follow” continued the powerful trend: brief but potent and muscular songs that propelled the show forward and kept the floor area bouncing.
The story-telling portion of the show was very well received and the new material continues to win people over. Responses were very, very strong for “Iris,” “Song for Someone,” and “Cedarwood Road.” People are becoming familiar with the songs and the new album seems to be winning a great deal of fans. This time around I got to experience the entire big screen and marveled at the images and band interplay. This set up is deceptively simple, one giant big screen the size of a billboard. But the interactive qualities and the multi-layering of the images make for a unique visual show, something only U2 could envision and pull off.
The BIG change up in the set occurred when the group pulled a fan onstage right after the nightclub segment of the show. During “Mysterious Ways” a sikh, and I think it’s the same dude that was pulled up ontage during a New York Elevation show, was again pulled up and embraced the band and got into a duel with Bono on the catwalk. At song’s end they let the fan stay onstage and handed him a smart phone for the Meerkat video feed. In a surprise move, Edge begins the intro to “Elevation” with the houselights on. The band launch into the song on the e-stage while the fan filmed the group. Larry was on the cocktail kit and the group laid down a thumping version of the song. It was rockin’ and the crowd was into it, jumping up and down like it was the Elevation Tour all over again. The group was revisiting All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and in memory of Dennis Sheehan, the group eased into a tender and stripped down version of “Stuck in a Moment.” I never really liked this song, it sounds just like “People Get Ready” and that damn John Mayer song (in actuality, the John Mayer and U2 songs are SUPPOSED to be tributes to “People Get Ready.”) But tonight’s version was something. Bono sang the opening verse and chorus while Edge accompanied him on piano. It was refreshing, sweeter than usual and heart-felt. The rhythm section joined in and made the song gel by the second chorus. Wow…THIS was the way this song was meant to be played: no guitar, no synth brass, just piano, bass and drums. It was like they covered a sentimental Keane song (a good Keane song).
Yet another stand out version of “Every Breaking Wave” was performed and pretty much left the entire Forum stunned. I’ve written before that this song is the show’s emotional center-piece and tonight’s performance is no less than that. As the tour progresses it seems Bono’s delivery and lung capacity get stronger and stronger. The simple beauty that is “Every Breaking Wave” left us in a trance, a peaceful serenity. Now I understand what Bono means by surrendering to the power of music. That breathtaking serenity was broken when “Bullet the Blue Sky” came crashing in like a fighter plane slamming into The Forum. Regarding BTBS, I can take it or leave it. On some tours it’s bad-ass and it was a great 1-2 companion piece to Sunday Bloody Sunday during the ZooTV and Vertigo Tours. These days I’d rather the group play one of the underrated tracks off The Joshua Tree like “In God’s Country” or “One Tree Hill.” By the way, sidenote: a fan, Marc Trevino, was pulled onstage at one of the Phoenix shows after telling the band he could play “In God’s Country” on guitar. And what happened? They did a semi-improvised but awesome rendition as a 5 piece on the e-stage. Wish stuff like that could happen more often. Back to BTBS, it’s The Edge’s “guitar hero” showcase where he can push his strat to the limit, use his wah effects and play a searing solo. A verse and chorus of “The Hands That Built America” bridge BTBS to “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and the final set 2 closers, “Beautiful Day” and “With or Without You.” The final big change occurred when “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” was played as the final selection during the encore.
I feel very fortunate to have been able to witness three different shows on this tour. I’m not a paid fan club member, so I was not able to take advantage of any presale offers. However I was still able to purchase reasonably priced tickets via ticketmaster, the primary ticket agency, without having to resort to scouring Ebay or private brokers for overpriced tickets. Major gripe: I think it’s ridiculous that the tickets in the lower section were over $250 a piece. It’s disheartening to know that a great seat will cost the same as my grocery bill for the month. Within these three shows a total of 29 different songs were performed, excluding any snippets or interpolations the group is known for doing. The group is still able to offer great value to the fan for putting on a show in excess of 2 hours in length. Some variety is also offered, although in limited doses. 24 songs were performed each night on average. A typical U2 set averages between 19-22 songs, usually. The new album usually has 6 selections in the set. No songs from October, Pop, Zooropa or No Line on the Horizon have been featured up this point. It would be cool to see the group sneak in some more dance material from Pop or Zooropa, maybe open up some space for “Unknown Caller,” “Gloria” or “11 O’ Clock Tick Tock.”
I have to give mad props to my Erica for looking as dazzling as she did at this show. Even the staff at The Forum were complimenting her. Not to sound like a jerk, but it was sad seeing so many train wrecks at that show, some just stop trying I guess 😦 Anyways, Erica looked awesome 🙂 She thought it was a great show, the band performed great as always and Bono’s voice was strong and compelling. Great end cap to a 3 show streak. We’re there if the band returns for a second American leg. U2 = Definite bucket list band and still relevant.
The differences from this night in comparison to the 5/19 San Jose gig were significant. This particular show was emotionally charged for the group, having lost longtime tour manager Dennis Sheehan the previous night, during his sleep. The group has endured very big losses recently, Larry Mullen Jr. lost his father as the tour was set to begin. Fittingly so, this show and this tour were dedicated to Dennis. I initially thought the show or even the tour would be cancelled. But, as painful as these current tragedies may be to the group and its organization, they’ve soldiered on and made good on their contracts and appear to be honoring the current schedule. How? I can’t begin to imagine.
About the show itself, a kick-ass change up occurred with the second number of the night. “The Miracle of Joey Ramone” concluded and a stage tech handed The Edge his Gibson Explorer. Whenever you see The Edge sling on that Explorer in natural finish, you know you’re going to experience “Out of Control” or “I Will Follow,” and IWF seems to have a permanent place in the 4th slot of the set. The group has been sporadically pulling “Out of Control” from their repertoire the last few tours. It was bitchin to experience it for only the 2nd time in the last 7 U2 shows I’ve attended. The bass guitar and kick drum rumbled over the PA system and Edge kicked the silvery riff into gear. This was the group’s first official Irish single, preceding “I Will Follow” and both taken from the Boy album. Famous for being written on Bono’s 18th birthday, the driving post-punk anthem speaks about the frustration as well as elation of the two events of life never in one’s control: when you’re born and when you die. Add an insistent, pulsing 4 beat under it, driving bass lines and a gleaming silvery guitar riff, and you have the first U2 classic, ever. This is also one of those tracks where you have to sing along with The Edge on his backing parts. There’s just no way to stop. Coldplay took their ‘ohh ohhh ohhh’ choruses from The Edge, seriously. Bono introduced the song as if they were playing the clubs in 1980, announcing “We’re a band from the north side of Dublin, called U2, formerly known as The Hype!” The group charged full speed ahead and the arena floor starts bouncing up and down. The lyrics have been altered over the years, with Bono singing ‘You’ve got spirit, I’ve got soul, we’ve got some big ideas, we’re out of control!’ As much as I enjoy “The Electric Co,” also off of Boy, this change up was a welcomed curve ball in the set.
Much later in the set, Bono’s delivery on “Every Breaking Wave” was stirring and so much stronger than the San Jose gig. This new material is catching on in a great way. While the San Jose audience was respectful and cheered appropriately, the LA crowd seemed more familiar with the new material, cheered loudly during the song intros and sang along. I could hear many LA fans singing along with EBW. It’s fast becoming a live favorite and emotional center piece for these concerts. On the e-stage and accompanied by Edge on piano, Bono once again soared and nailed his parts flawlessly and with more lung power.
“Angel of Harlem” was pulled out this night, following “Desire.” Both songs got the arena floor hopping. I’m rarely one to listen to Rattle & Hum songs or go bonkers when they’re performed live, but these renditions were electrified and spirited. This version of AOH was bouncy and joyous, it was great to see the crowd on the floor become as animated as they did and filled in during the choruses. It was a reminder that this group has its fun side and an even greater reminder that there’s wonderful material on the Rattle & Hum album. Those songs have a sprinkling of Motown, Delta Blues, jazz and an infectious swagger to them, especially live. The video feed on Meerkat was successfully made and the fan pulled onto the stage playfully filmed the group as they grooved through “Angel of Harlem,” adding to the fun and festive vibe of this portion of the concert.
Near the end of the second set I noticed someone air drumming. It’s awesome to spot the drummers in the audience. During “Pride (In the Name of Love),” a guy a couple rows down held his camera phone with the left hand while his right hand did the 16th note rolls during the pre-chorus. And he even air drummed the snare accents! 🙂
Once again, “The Troubles” was deleted from the set in favor of “Bad.” Bono quietly expressed “So you know, this is a sign, a mark for this show. We surrender to you, you surrender to the music. That God created music, or whatever you think…the grace of God. It’s about surrender, it’s an important word. This is about letting go. So anything you want to let go, just let go of it tonight…I know I sound like a preacher, but you know it’s the truth. Let go. It’s the miracle of music…’if you twist and turn away, if you tear yourself in two again…” Tonight’s version had a bit of rocky start vocally, but as it progressed it became a hell of a lot stronger than the San Jose version, with Bono confidently building the crescendo and belting out the ‘wide awake’ portion. A snippet of “Moment of Surrender” was added to the coda of “Bad” – ‘at the moment of surrender, I’ve folded to my knees, I did not notice the passers-by and they did not notice me…’
The closer for the night was changed. “One” was omitted from the set and it was replaced with a moving tribute to Dennis Sheehan. For the die hards out there, you already know that if The Edge and Adam Clayton trade instruments, it means that the rarely played (and legendary concert staple), “40” is about to be performed. “40” closes the WAR album, and it was the regular closer for U2 concerts in the 80s, its lyrics directly taken from the 40th Psalm in the Bible. Bono expressed to the crowd that during filming for the Under a Blood Red Sky video at Red Rocks, it was Dennis Sheehan that encouraged the crowds to continue singing the chorus to “40” long after the show had actually ended, even singing the chorus as they filed into their cars in the parking lots. Tonight the band performed “40” in his memory. Near the close of the song, one by one the band members exited the stage, leaving Larry to continue playing unaccompanied for a few bars, ultimately ending with a final crash. The crowd continued to sing the chorus even as the lights went up exited the venue. I swear I didn’t cry. It was a great send off to Dennis Sheehan, whose image was projected on the main screen.
Songs performed this night which were not performed on 5/19/15 were “Out of Control,” “Desire,” “Angel Of Harlem,” and “40.” Luckily, my vantage point this time around was vastly improved. I was able to snap the following images:
U2 fans will want to smack me. What I originally anticipated to be an underwhelming gig turned out to be an exciting, inventive and surprisingly fresh production. Simply put, U2 can still elevate my soul. The first four songs were a great introduction to the show, including driving versions of “Electric Co,” “Vertigo” and “I Will Follow.” Yessss…I finally got to hear “I Will Follow” live!!! And my naive presumptions were shattered by the Innocence/Experience stage play, for lack of a better term. We were treated to a visual story that unfolded onstage. Visual story meaning that the band’s performance was augmented by a billboard sized video screen suspended from the rafters and hanging parallel to the runway. It was a 3D design, the band members were able to climb into the billboard screen and walk through it. The group itself physically became part of the visuals. Bono began the story telling segment of the show by speaking about his mother – a video played onscreen while the group worked its way into “Iris,” one of the stronger tracks off the new album, Songs of Innocence. The next chapter to this story began as Bono introduced us to his old neighborhood on Cedarwood Road, while animated visuals showed a row of houses, caricatures, outlined with bold colors. The band then eased into another new track, the appropriately titled “Cedarwood Road,” and Bono walked into the video screen and he was transported back to Cedarwood Road, Dublin city. We were taken back to the group’s beginnings and the visual story was eye-catching, compelling and left me in awe. Bono walked along the road while images of the houses swirled around and moved along, making it appear as if Bono was walking through a cartoonish residential area. Another animation was used to show The Edge as a teen, sitting on his bed with an acoustic guitar, while the group eased into “Song for Someone,” my favorite track off the new album. Edge played SFS entirely on electric guitar and it was an abridged version, shorter than the studio original, but still very cool to hear. It was at this point that this section of new songs gave way for what seemed like an inappropriately placed “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” But what impressed me was the arrangement and how it represented the band’s early period and the issues back home in Dublin during that point in history. All four group members took to the runway and performed a slightly altered arrangement. This was not an acoustic version like what’s been described online, as Edge played all the guitar parts on a Fender Strat – his sound was cleaner than usual with little to no overdrive, distortion or delay. His guitar parts were restrained and less abrasive than typical live versions. The bigger change-up was in Larry’s performance. Gone was the full drumkit. He walked along the runway with a marching snare and sling strap. The basic pattern was tapped out on the snare, 16th notes, with the accents and signature rat-tatatat-tat played with rimshots. The snare was killer. It was a metal snare with black finish, aggressive, with a high end crack that jolted your ass, and perked you up to full attention. The group stuck to the runway, giving those floor ticket holders closer access to their heroes. The runway was illuminated with green and gold, colors of the Irish flag. The group exited the runway one by one as the song winded down. Larry was the last to go, as he snapped loud, cutting rimshots on the snare drum. They were whole notes, as if he was counting down, a timer. On screen a car appeared, while a news broadcast reported an IRA bombing. This was a chilling segue to “Raised By Wolves,” as it began with a car bomb detonation. The thematic link was cool but also very sobering, and the band continued their story with a song about the Dublin and Monaghan terrorist bombings. The links were astounding, serious and personal in tone. The band has stated that this record is very personal to them. And the thematic links prove that. RBW is written from the perspective of Andy Rowen, childhood friend of the band, who witnessed those bombings first hand. Andy is brother to Peter Rowen, who as a youngster appeared on the cover art to Boy, War, and the Best Of albums. It was Andy who was driven to heroin use, and thus provided the lyrical inspiration to “Bad” off of the Unforgettable Fire. “Until the End of the World” closed set one, another aggressive, cataclysmic track in keeping with Raised By Wolves. UTEOTW it’s one of my favorite tracks off Achtung Baby but I was hoping to hear something different, something seldom performed or never performed in the past. The intermission/break began and we were treated to a prerecorded video of “The Wanderer” off of the Zooropa album. In a creative move, an animated Johnny Cash performed the song, giving the crowd a unique and surreal performance. It made me appreciate Zooropa as an album and it reminded me of what an incredible talent and cultural icon Johnny Cash was. Little did we know that the group had taken their places within the screen as The Wanderer drew to a close. U2 immediately slipped into the opening bars of “Invisible,” while the video screen gradually revealed the band members, the pixels morphing, to reveal the group, little by little. Invisible was a great addition to this set. I enjoyed it better in this type of setting, rather than the televised appearance on The Tonight Show.
In typical “brave” U2 fashion, they included 6 of the new songs in tonight’s set and they fit in surprisingly well. I’m not the biggest fan of the new record, Songs of Innocence, but this night’s arrangements and performances made me eager to revisit the album, especially the acoustic versions. The songs went over very well. “The Miracle” was a good set-up song, kicking the show into an anthemic and driving start. But it was “Iris” and the gentler numbers that won me over as a fan of the album and of this tour. “Cedarwood Road” was also a surprisingly effective number. Edge’s guitar lines in that song were the perfect backdrop for Bono’s ‘stroll’ on screen. But the absolute show stopper of the night was a stripped down arrangement of “Every Breaking Wave” with piano and vocal only on the mini stage (e stage). It was a sparse, simple arrangement, but elegant and gorgeous. It had us captivated, while cell phones and lighters sparked to life throughout the arena. Bono’s vocals were very strong and he delivered his lines with more passion, power and precision. It was like he was saving his best stuff for that particular song this night. He reminded me that he’s still a great singer, that he’s the man. Yes he’s in his 50’s and his range and tone have changed, but this song proved that the current Bono can still belt it out and make your hairs stand on end.
This group has been around for a long time and they still find ways to make the familiar (and the over-played) sound rejuvenated and exciting by altering the presentation and arrangements. I admit I’m very hard on this band for not being more adventurous when it comes to the live sets. Some of us are still holding hope for “Acrobat” and “Drowning Man” to show up one day. My brother made a good point that the standards (some of which have been played to death in my opinion) are easier to rehearse, less time consuming to prepare, and just easier to pull off live consistently, night to night. The band restored much of my faith by including an electric version of “Desire” on the e-stage with Larry playing a cocktail drumset. A cocktail drumset is a more compact set up and played in a standing position. I haven’t heard “Desire” played like that before and it sounded pretty damn cool. A song that I’m usually ambivalent about made me take notice, made me grin and think ‘damn, no wonder it was a top 5 single.’ It groooooved. “Even Better Than the Real Thing” and “Mysterious Ways” usually make me yawn. But this night’s performances were like a slap in my face and made me appreciate and enjoy the songs again. EBTTRT was similar to the arrangement used during the 360 Tour. It was bouncy, exuberant, and transformed the arena into a dance club. The visuals were bright and stunning, and at one point it looked like a wall of fire was projected on the big screen. Those GA fans on the floor must have had their minds blown. “Mysterious Ways” kept the funky pace going. Mirror balls descended from the big screen and the night club theme continued. This version was funkier, had more thump, and Edge’s guitar playing was tighter and more like the studio version. Larry’s drumming on the cocktail kit sounded great: commanding and very bitchin. I seriously want that snare. The drums will make move…”the orbit of your hips…” “The Sweetest Thing” made a surprising appearance and the group made it sound great. It was like an acoustic jam, with Edge strumming rhythmic chords while Adam and Larry laid down a great groove. The vocal delivery was great. A fan was plucked from the stage and film the band on her smartphone. I think a video feed was supposed to take place but the connection was never made and the videos screens remained blank. An upright piano rotated into place from underneath the e-stage. Bono plucked away the piano hook and the the song ended. What a breath of fresh air. Near the close of set 2, the group was poised to perform “The Troubles,” what would have been the 7th and final song represented from the SOI album. In a surprise move, Bono motioned to the group members and said “let’s just try a song that’s not on schedule…this is Bad” and the audience went freaking nuts! It was a sight to see such a huge response for a song that’s a non-single, and probably not very familiar to the casual radio fan. The sequencer was switched on as Bono sang a piece of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” then Edge began playing the opening riff. “This is a song of surrender…whatever it is you want to let go of tonight, let it go. You are free…” For such a slower number, the crowd was very animated, standing, and moved like crazy during the build up into the final chorus. Bono struggled a bit during the ‘wide awake’ portions but who wouldn’t have trouble, it’s a bitch to sing. The closing number for set 2 was “With or Without You,” and thankfully it wasn’t played in a lazy fashion like the previous two tours. It was an uplifting close, and only the second time I’ve witnessed this song performed out of 6 shows since 2001.
I enjoyed the show but this was my first time sitting behind the group. When I initially purchased these tickets I made the mistake of not checking for notes about limited viewing/behind the stage viewing. I was just elated that I managed to score affordable tickets! It made for a unique vantage point but I think I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have, I didn’t feel fully engaged. I’m pleased that the group was able to put on a show, a tour, that is vastly different than the previous one, the massive stadium extravaganza that was the 360 Tour. This tour is more intimate and has more in common with the 2001 Elevation and 2005 Vertigo tours. The new songs were well received and much of the older material was revamped. If I had a gripe it would be regarding the show length. For the first time ever, U2 has utilized the “evening with” format: no opening act, 2 sets with an intermission. Granted the group performed 24 songs in all, the show running time didn’t exceed 2 hours 15 minutes. I know this is pretty generous, considering the guys in the group are now in their 50s and performing live and traveling can be challenging, physical work. The selfish die-hard in me would have loved to see a longer show, even by 15 minutes more, easily throwing in another 3 songs or so…come on guys, you know you can do it. Hell, let Edge sing lead on a couple numbers. And to my disappoint, the group abandoned the idea of rotating set lists, preferring to stick to a rather static set with only a couple changes from night to night. Still a great return to the stage. And now on to the LA Forum gigs!
The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
The Electric Co.+ segments of Send In The Clowns, I Can See For Miles and Wonderwall
Vertigo + interpolation of Do Your Remember Rock n Roll Radio
I Will Follow
Song For Someone
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Raised By Wolves
Until The End Of The World
The Wanderer (Video)
Even Better Than The Real Thing
Desire + segments of 1969 and Love Me Do
Every Breaking Wave
Bullet The Blue Sky
The Hands That Built America/Pride
Into The Mystic/Bad + lines from Moment Of Surrender
With Or Without You
City Of Blinding Lights
Mother And Child Reunion/Where The Streets Have No Name
The following photos were taken by fellow atU2 members Amberusky and U2menlo.
I can die now. That’s the feeling after seeing U2 live for the very first time. After years of watching them on video, listening to them on record, and losing out on tickets for Pop Mart and leg 1 of the Elevation Tour, FINALLY I was able to experience the greatest band on the planet (arguably), but definitely my favorite band of all-time. I was attending college at the time, my little brother made the 4 hour drive and stayed with me for a couple days. My girlie and our mutual friend, Eileen, also joined us. This show was the third Staples Center gig of a three night stand. U2 had sold out all three shows, it was miraculous that I was able to score tickets this time around. We lost out during leg one of the Elevation Tour in the Spring of ’01.
At this time, U2 were now more important to the music world (and the world at large) than ever before. It was two months since the September 11th terror attacks had occurred and the nation continued to mourn. Sadness and anger were abound, no matter where you turned. Most touring acts pulled out of performing in the United States since the attacks for a variety of reasons, mostly due to safety concerns. U2 strongly considered abandoning their return to The United States in the Fall of 2001, however they changed their minds and said fuck it, let’s tour North America anyway. At this particular gig, Bono would go on to say that the band was very proud to be playing The United States during such tumultuous times. Thus, Leg 3 of The Elevation Tour continued as previously planned, and the climate of the nation and the temperament of the audience made for very unique performances. The shows since 9/11 were therapeutic, cleansing, and celebrations of the human heart and spirit. Themes of this tour as well as the new album at the time, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, echoed those emotions and amplified the positive energy. Just like what had been written in Time and People Magazine, it was as if North America needed U2 more than ever. Their music is anthemic and uplifting, the subject matter of their songs often sobering yet celebratory. The members of U2 wear their hearts on their sleeves, and the members of U2 love North America. While other European groups of the 1980s largely avoided the investment of time and money in building their audience in The States, U2 embraced North America with open arms and toured the continent in exhaustive fashion, leaving their mark and making life-long fans in the process. Like Manager Paul McGuinness had said, U2 built their early reputation on their live performances. The Elevation Tour was ready made to showcase an intimate arena show with scaled down production, without the sensory overload and big money gimmicks of the previous two tours (ZooTV and PopMart). It was as if the Elevation Tour was the most emotional tour of U2’s career, the most human and sincere, and it was undeniably appropriate for post 9/11 North America. To promote that humanness and emotional connection, U2’s set designer created a stage that extended out into the GA floor area, known as the “Heart.” It was in fact a runway that was in the shape of a heart, it extended out into the crowd and allowed the band members to venture further out, shrinking the gap between audience and performer. On that runway, Bono, The Edge and Adam Clayton would venture out and perform stripped down versions of “Desire,” “Please,” “Stay,” and other numbers. The heart shaped stage was a direct extension of the art work of the album and it reflected the themes of the songs. The songs were about life, love, faith, family, and freedom. Such songs included “Beautiful Day,” “Walk On,” “Kite,” “When I Look at the World,” and fittingly enough, “New York.”
And as if the connections weren’t any more appropriate, U2 used The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” and “Sgt. Pepper/With a Little Help From My Friends” as the pre-show music leading into their first number of the night, “Elevation.” As “With a Little Help From My Friends” faded out, the reworked intro to Elevation began and the house lights remained on…the song continued and woo-hoo’s began. This was in fact the ‘Tomb Raider’ Soundtrack remix of the song. The volume of the crowd became increasingly louder and LOUDER. What the heck was going on? The lights were still on and we weren’t sure if the show was actually beginning. The house lights were still on and then slowly entering from stage left…Larry, Adam, Edge and finally, Bono, waved to the audience and strolled out onto the main stage . The Staples Center crowd went ballistic. The volume of the crowd swelled to an almost painful level. It’s as if I was standing next to a jet engine at full power. Not to sound sycophantic, but it’s as if we were in the presence of heroes. The band took their places, the decibels of the audience noise continued to increase, and U2 crashed into “Elevation” running on all cylinders. The lights remained on and we were in awe. We could see EVERYTHING. And everyone for that matter. 15,000 people grooved to this song and filled in on the woo-hoo-ooo parts. It was deafening. I have never experienced such a loud, spirited reception for a group at a concert, not before or since that show. It was amazing how loud and welcoming the crowd was. After a triumphant ending to the song, suddenly the house lights clicked off, showing the red lit outline of the heart stage and the intro to “Beautiful Day” began, garnering another impressively loud roar from the audience, and now the show was truly about to begin. We soared with the music and we were awestruck by the lighting and visuals. The center piece of the production was that heart stage. Bono traveled the runway out into the audience while he sang the tune. Everyone in the GA floor section was reaching for him. Beautiful Day was a return to ‘classic’ U2: memorable melody, silvery, chiming guitar work, classic groove from the rhythm section, and uplifting, cathartic lyrics and singing from Bono. That’s the U2 formula, that’s the sound that inspires and heals.
The show continued with a rocking rendition of “Until the End of the World” and a funky performance of “Mysterious Ways.” The younger chicks were shaking it and the dudes were bobbing their heads. Then the “no fucking way” section of the show arrived: a four beat on the kick drum began along with Adam’s pulsing bass. I turned to my brother and we both had the same look of astonishment. “No. Way” I said. Then Edge’s guitar part confirmed it, it was “Out of Control” off the Boy album, and my brother and I shouted “YEEAAAHHH!!!” I think we forgot to blink. Bono introduced the song by saying “We’re a band from Dublin Ireland, this is our first single!” and the group tore into one of the coolest post punk anthems in their repertoire. During the middle-8 of the song, Bono briefly talked about how the world famous KROQ Los Angeles radio station broke them: “KROQ…on the radio…our first single….It’s out of control…we’re out of control…” and the song picked up speed and came to a blistering end. Wow…that song alone made our night. Also included were lines from “Into the Heart,” also from the Boy Album. Who would have thought we’d get to hear a classic like that.
Without a moment to catch a breath, the ratatatat-tat intro to “Sunday Bloody Sunday” began and the arena continued to give back with ear splitting cheers and screams. The WAR tune was a fitting follower to “Out of Control,” continuing the martial sounding theme. It was tense in the arena, the hair on my arms stood on end and I began to feel this odd sensation in my core. Edge’s poignant yet commanding guitar intro began and I along with other fans began to feel a shiver. After the terror attacks, a song like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” held closer meaning to the American audience. The song was originally written in response to the Bloody Sunday IRA terror attacks in Northern Ireland. During one infamous performance in England in 1983, a fight broke out in the crowd during a performance of the song. Bono angrily called out the troublesome audience members, challenging them by saying “Do you know what this song is about!? This song is about real violence where I come from, not pretend violence. You walk that way and you walk the other way. Listen to this song!” Ever since it’s release, the song has struck a chord with the Irish and English. But now, It’s as if the song was ours, the lyrics providing a somber mirror to what happened on 9/11 – ‘..I can’t believe the news today…I can’t close my eyes, make it go away. How long, how long must we sing this song, how long? Tonight, we can be as one. Tonight. Broken bottles under children’s feet, bodies strewn across a dead-end street. But I won’t heed the battle call. Puts my back up, my back up against the wall.’ During the cadence, Bono shouted to the crowd “…Turn this song into a prayer!…No More! No More!…wipe your tears away…”
After the powerful and emotionally charged Sunday Bloody Sunday, a string of slower selections followed, including “Stuck in a Moment” and a heart rendering version of “Kite,” originally written about Bono’s children, but now it was sung for his father who had passed away a few months previously. Stripped down acoustic versions of “Wild Honey” and “Please” followed, providing a downer for the set, But the magic quickly resumed when the sequencer intro to “Bad” began. It was great to hear one of my favorites performed live. “Bad” was adorned by a teaser of “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” in place of the usual “All I Want is You” teaser. It worked very well and it sounded like Wild Horses fit in perfectly with Bad’s song structure. Another cool happening, during “Bad,” Bono plucked a fan’s cell phone from the audience and sang the second half of the song into the phone. I wonder what the listener must have thought and felt, having “Bad” sung to him/her via cell phone. Beloved anthems “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Pride (In the Name of Love) closed out the main set in grande U2 fashion. During “Streets,” Bono grabbed an American Flag from the audience and ran a lap around the heart stage, flag in hand. These last four selections were a great end-cap to this show, the audience continued to sing the ‘whoa-oh-uh-oh’ section of “Pride” as the band left the stage. Of special note was in regards to the intro of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” where the large video screen projected the names of the victims of Flight 175. It was a stirring tribute to some of the victims of 9/11. The band would reproduce this tribute at subsequent shows, and finally at the Super Bowl XXXVI half-time show performance. At the end of the half-time performance, Bono opened up his jacket, showing the inner lining of the stars and stripes. That was the greatest half-time show ever.
The encore section was odd, consisting of “Bullet the Blue Sky” with NRA video footage, a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” which was a duet with Gwen Stefani of No Doubt (who opened the show), “New York,” “One,” and “Peace on Earth/Walk On.” I think the encore was anti-climactic, especially after the strong ending to the main set with four timeless classics. Although the setlist wasn’ perfect, it was still an unforgettable and riveting U2 experience for a first timer like me. I finally got to see my band live. I was 12 years old when Larry Mullen first inspired me to pick up the drums in the first place. Years later I finally got to see my heroes in the flesh. Like I wrote in the beginning of this post, I can die now.
The following photos were taken by Matt McGee, creator of the atU2 web page and forum. Thanks, Matt!
This was my third Vertigo Tour gig, and only the sixth show the entire tour. I don’t think U2 has ever toured California so extensively, they’ve truly spoiled us this time around. I was able to score tickets off Ebay for all 4 Vertigo Tour concerts, all reasonable deals by the way and decent seats. It was nearly impossible trying to buy tickets off ticketmaster when they originally went on sale. A snafu occurred, and it was a free for all for scalpers and resellers. Larry Mullen Jnr. went as far as to apologize for the ticketing issue during the 2005 Grammys.
The Staples Center gig was a solid one, however the sound quality left something to be desired and security was over the top. People were being asked to put their cameras away and the pat downs at the door were very thorough, they weren’t taking any chances. The band performed well and they’ve more or less found their rhythm by now and were delivering the shows with confidence and consistency. The opener was changed to “Love and Peace or Else,” a welcomed surprise after the familiar starting points of the other concerts. An older gentleman was sitting to my right. We said hello and he asked if I’d ever seen the band before. I happily reported this was my third show this tour. He said “Wow! Then they’re really good!”
It was another good experience and it’s quite extraordinary to see this group, this legendary, larger than life group recreate the music you’ve adored all these years. Of special note is the usage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights video that’s used as the segue into “Pride.” On screen, a child reads aloud sections of the declaration concerning freedom from slavery. This part of the show was further proof that U2 will always wear their hearts on their sleeves. Whether you find things like that cool or uncool, appropriate or not, U2 will always be that socio-political group at its core, wanting to change the world however they can.
Main Set: Love and Peace or Else, Vertigo – Stories for Boys, Elevation, Cry – The Electric Co., An Cat Dubh – Into the Heart, City of Blinding Lights, Beautiful Day, Miracle Drug, Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own, New Year’s Day, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet the Blue Sky – Hands That Built America, Running to Stand Still, Zoo Station, The Fly, Mysterious Ways
Encore(s): Pride, Where the Streets Have No Name, One, All Because of You, Yahweh, 40
The following photos were taken by fans the night of 04/05 and submitted to the U2tours web page for posting.
Made the trip to San Jose to see U2 for the fourth and final time this tour and it was the best sounding yet. Bono’s voice was stronger this night, giving more energy to older songs and leaving more room for improv work. It was cool talking with people and just being friendly. I was amazed by the diversity in ages at this show. Life long fans in their 40s and 50s were there. Younger fans in their 20s and 30s. And a large percentage of teens and younger kiddos as well. We were at the merch table and a mom was taking her time selecting and sizing a shirt for her little boy, he must have been around 6 years old. The line didn’t move for a while. Someone behind me said “come on lady this isn’t Target.” She shot over an ugly glance, paid for the shirt and moved her ass along. The Kings of Leon hadn’t even taken the stage yet and already there was tension in the venue 🙂
The show was well received, but the San Jose crowd was relaxed. We sat the entire time, and there didn’t seem to be as many boisterous die-hards in the arena. Older tracks like “Electric Co,” “The Ocean” and “40” were politely received. The San Diego crowds went apeshit on the other hand, standing the entire show and joyously singing their lungs out to those older treasures. That night we even sang the new tunes word for word, and filled in nicely on the call and response sections. It could very well be that the San Diego crowds were so exuberant because it was opening night/second night, history in the making.
The Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” (which I love by the way) began playing and the crowd knew it was almost showtime. The cheering and screaming began well before the first track began. “City of Blinding Lights” opened the show, “Vertigo” adorned by a brief “Stories for Boys” followed, giving the arena a jolt of energy. The momentum was great…flowing into “Elevation” which was played without drums for the first 2 verses. The place went crazy when Larry’s thumping groove crashed in, and the momentum continued with “The Cry/The Electric Co.”
Before ripping into “Electric Co,” Bono referred to San Jose by saying U2 played this great college town in 1980 “I think KSJO were playing us on the radio (roar from the crowd), and we felt…so cool.”
“The Ocean” was played, much to my surprise and disbelief. One of the guys next to me kept saying “Oh my God…Oh my God…Oh my God” as Adam’s delicate, yet rumbling bass lines echoed throughout the venue. I felt very fortunate to hear it, and it sounded just as compelling as it does on the BOY album.
“New Years Day” and “Beautful Day” followed, continuing a string of rocking, uplifting classics. Standard live versions, however “Beautful Day” featured a snippet of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” as the outro.
The show slowed down a bit at this point, easing into a couple new tracks, most notably “Miracle Drug.” Edge gently picked out the main melody to “Miracle Drug,” while Bono spoke about the Pope, and I’ve transcribed the dedication here, word for word.
“You get used to being pontificated. No self respecting rock star is missing a little bit of a pope complex, know what i’m sayin? What you might not know is that this Pope, John Paul…well, he had a little bit of a rock star complex. I know because I stood in front of him, I didn’t agree with everything he stood for, but he stood for something…and I was proud to be in his company. I saw that he had these true piercing eyes, and they just kept staring …at me…just kept staring at me with those true piercing eyes…cuz im half Catholic I thought maybe I’d done something wrong (crowd chuckles). Theres a lot to choose from. He just kept staring…so I spoke up. I just said “Holy Father…do you want a pair of fly shades?” And he said…”ya” (The Audience shared the light hearted moment and chuckled and clapped heartily). So i took them off and gave him my fly shades and he put them on..and he made a kind of wicked little face like this (Bono gestures by grinning from ear to ear with the shades on, and cocks his head to the side much to the crowd’s delight)…im not kidding! And then he gave me these…(Bono pulls out a set of Rosary Beads). This is called a crooked cross, and its a miniature one that he used to carry it around and Michelangelo designed it for him, it’s pretty isn’t it? I wear it around my neck all the time, except when I’m at a rock show, then I put it in my pocked cuz I know what you guys are like . Anyway, this great man, this great showman, this great friend to the world’s poor, and I want to kiss his crooked cross and say goodbye to him tonight. So for anyone who’s sick, this is for you. Doctors and nurses, keep us all alive…sorry for buggin.’ “I wanna trip inside your head, spend the day there…”
“Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own” completed the string of softer selections. The one-two-three punch of Love and Peace/Sunday Bloody Sunday/Bullet the Blue Sky got the crowd rocking again, the first selection featuring Larry, then Bono banging away on a tom-tom out on the runway. “Bullet” featured a brief “Hands That Built America” which replaced the “and I can see those figher planes” section of the song. Very cool little change-up.
A tender “Running to Stand Still” followed, played as it was during the Joshua Tree/LoveTown concerts. I smiled to myself as I watched an older couple two rows in front of me, standing, and holding onto each other. The crowd began to clap in time to the song, Bono said “please don’t clap, but you can sing for me…sing A La La Laa Dee Daaaay.”
The ZooTV section went down in awesome fashion, as “Mysterious Ways” closed the trio of Achtung Baby songs. Classic anthems “Pride in the Name of Love,” “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “One” concluded the main set. It’s been great following my favorite group of all-time up and down California. I attended 4 shows within the last week and a half and it’s been awesome. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do this again…
The following photos were taken by fans the night of 04/09/12 and submitted to the u2tours website.
*silence* *utter silence*
My brother and I just witnessed the opening night of U2’s Vertigo Tour and we’re still trying to regain our composure. This is the group’s return to the American stage after a 4 year absence. The last tour, The Elevation Tour, was awesome beyond words. That tour was groundbreaking in an austere, sentimental way. After the glitz and technological overload of the ZooTV and Pop Mart Tours, U2 scaled down their production and delivered a more intimate and more compelling arena show – where the focus was once again on the songs. This current tour is an extension of that.
My brother and I made the trek from Orange County. We got to the arena fairly easily and caught The Kings Of Leon. The pre-show music began and we were treated to a bunch of great tracks, my favorite being The Pixies’ Monkey Gone to Heaven. Then Arcade Fire’s Wake Up begins…the volume increases…a voice chants “everyone” repeatedly, and the house lights go down. Musically, this group means just about everything to my brother and I. We grew up with U2 and their music became the soundtrack to our lives, a term poetically coined by a Rush fan and subsequently used by Neil Peart. Our hearts were racing and our breathing ceased as the lights went down. The deafening roar of the crowd begins and the opening number swells through the PA, a very non-obvious opener at that – “City of Blinding Lights.” It was an anthemic way to begin the show, to begin this tour. Confetti dropped from the ceiling and the lights came up in grande fashion. It was joyous and celebratory. The new album had been out since January or February, and the crowd was jumping, and filling in nicely on the woo-ooo-ooo and chorus sections. The momentum continued with “Vertigo,” the punky big single off the new record. The crowd was energized and bouncing off the walls practically. A teasing snippet of “Stories for Boys” was inserted at the end, foreshadowing what was to come later on. We marveled at the set design and the impressive use of lights and what looked like LED curtains that served as video screens.
The set continued with what had to be the jaw dropping shocker of the night…in “War Tour” fashion the band launched into “The Electric Co.” and the arena went frickin’ crazy. Perfect way to keep the momentum of the show going. It was like we were transported back to the Under a Blood Red Sky concert video from 1983. Our eyes were pretty much popping out of our heads at that point. The crowd was pulsing, and the group recaptured the magic of the early 80s: hungry U2, aggressive and passionate U2. After a final release and end to the song, the next shocker slammed us like a ton of bricks. A spotlight shone on The Edge and the ghostly intro to “An Cat Dubh” began. My brother and I turned to each other and our jaws dropped simultaneously. By instinct I air-drummed to Larry Mullen’s intro: Bum-Bum-Bum-Bum-Bum-Bum-badabada-Bumbum. That song hasn’t been played since…the War Tour??? I’m not entirely certain. But anyways, U2 started off with 2 new tracks, then reached back to their debut album for the following 2 tracks and it was surreal and beyond belief. What’s more interesting, it’s as if those 4 tracks had something in common: sound, elements, themes, they fit together and it was awesome. The trend continued with “Into the Heart,” which closed this awesome opening salvo for the night. My brother and I were giddy.
The show continued and it was a non-stop amazing experience. Of note was the poignant yet rocking “Miracle Drug,” notable for some lead vocal duties by The Edge. The “heart of darkness” segment of the set included the trio of “Love and Peace Or Else/Sunday Bloody Sunday/Bullet the Blue Sky. All three of those tracks have warfare and the futility of war as common themes. Love and Peace was like an atomic flavored vamp that grooved and slinked its way into the arena . Near song’s end, Bono pounded out a rhythm on a floor tom out on the elipse. He donned a head band that had Christian, Jewish and Islamic symbols on it, spelling out “C-O-E-X-I-S-T.” That led to the militant, marching styled attack of the immortal Sunday Bloody Sunday, which then led into the mother of all drum grooves; Bullet the Blue Sky. Edge’s guitar work was searing on Bullet, it was as if you could hear fighter planes making strafing runs overhead. A tender “Running to Stand Still” followed, very much like the rendition found on the Rattle and Hum movie. The crowd joined in nicely on the ‘still running’ sing-along.
The surprises didn’t end there. At the end of the main set, the arena went pitch black and it was as if the switch for ZooTV was turned on. The into to “Zoo Station” began and the monitors onstage showed images from the ZooTV Tour. A group of guys from Mexico were freaking out, one of them kept shouting with a heavy accent: “ZOO STATION! ZOO STATION!!!” It was another dose of nostalgia…but damn, it was bitchin. The song sounded GREAT, the video and production effects were awesome, we were truly transported back to the 92/93 tour and we were reliving another classic U2 era. “The Fly” continued the theme, complete with the seizure inducing onslaught of rapid changing buzzwords on the video screens.”Elevation” finally ended the main set. HO-LY CRAP. My brother and I were geeking out. More classic tracks and two final newer selections from the latest album were played. The final and most fitting surprise came with the performance of “40.” This was the traditional closer to the U2 tours of the 80s. It hasn’t been played properly since The Lovetown Tour ’88-’90. The crowd was yet again transported back in time to the sacred closer that is “40,” complete with Adam Clayton and The Edge switching instruments. Each band member exited the stage one by one, ultimately leaving Larry Mullen to thump away on the drum kit, solo, until a final crash ended the song. As he waved goodbye and exited the stage, the San Diego crowd continued singing “how looooooong, to sing thiiisss sooooong.” U2 never lost the magic. This show and this tour proved they’ve still got it, they’re still relevant, and they’re still inspiring fans the world over. Perfect opening night.
Afterward, I thought it was very brave of the band to showcase 7 or so new songs, delve back to the Boy album for 3 more numbers, and pretty much omit the obvious big singles like With or Without You, Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Desire, Angel of Harlem and Mysterious Ways. Other notably absent numbers included I Will Follow, Stay, and Bad. Despite those omissions, U2 still put on a strong show. I think it just goes to show that they have a wealth of quality material to choose from. The set seemed short, but in reality 22 tracks with assorted interpolations/snippets were played.
SET: City of Blinding Lights,Vertigo – Stories For Boys, Cry – The Electric Co., An Cat Dubh – Into the Heart, Beautiful Day – Blackbird, New Year’s Day, Miracle Drug, Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own, Love and Peace or Else, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet the Blue Sky – Hands That Built America – When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Running to Stand Still – Hallelujah, Zoo Station, The Fly, Elevation
Encores: Pride, Where the Streets Have No Name, One, All Because Of You, Yahweh, 40
images from opening night 03/28/05 taken by the San Diego Union Tribune – no copyright infringement intended