Thursday, October 29, 2009


It's difficult to describe this week's U2 show without referencing and comparing to the last time we saw them three-and-a-half years ago. Not much has changed since then: Bono looks a bit more like Gene Hackman but his voice is still magic, the mid-tempo and up-tempo songs blow the roof off in concert, the band never makes a mistake, and their shows are always full-on, over-the-top spectacles.

Angelo and I hit a pub on the way, enjoying a few beers and burgers. Keeners Myron and Ben apparently crashed a line and raced to the front of the stage when the doors opened at 5:30. We cruised in just as the Black Eyed Peas finished their odd set, sometime after 7:30 -- what a terrible match for U2. The crowd on the floor was still pretty loosely packed until maybe 15 meters from the front runway thingie, so that's where we stopped and spent the rest of the show. Close enough to get a good view of everything, especially when band members came around the runway.

The space-station-claw stage apparatus was truly massive -- watching a time-lapse movie of the setup-show-teardown cycle is unreal. This was a real stadium-sized show, and I enjoyed turning around and watching the sea of 60,000 people surrounding us. The sound definitely wasn't as good as the arena show last time, with shrieking treble that physically hurt at times, but most of the time it was ok and very LOUD. I'm getting old, obviously, and standing in one spot for three hours had me questioning the wisdom of floor tickets. It was weird seeing half the people watching most of the show through their cameras and cell phones, and I got plenty sick of having people "singing" off-key loudly in my ear the entire concert -- why can't fans just listen and leave the terrible singing for karaoke nights?

It's fascinating to watch the nearly identical live show from LA on YouTube taped a few days before -- same setlist, same unreal stage, same band. I don't know how interesting it would be to someone who hadn't seen the tour, but I love having a virtual record of it like that. Great visuals and sound for streaming video, too.

But anyway, it's about the here's the setlist with my pithy (pissy?) commentary attached:
  • Breathe, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent -- I'm not a big fan of the new album, so this opening trio didn't really get me fired up. The performances were solid, of course, and the first two songs sounded way better live than they do on the album -- Get On Your Boots was downright bombastic.
  • Mysterious Ways -- As glad as I was to hear some Achtung this early in the set, I've never really liked this song. Everyone else seemed pretty stoked up, with the crowd hollering every word.
  • Beautiful Day -- This one was fantastic in 2005, and identical this time. A straight-ahead rock anthem that could just as easily be a Green Day song.
  • I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For -- I was disappointed when they didn't play this classic last time, so I was very pleased to hear it now. Beautifully performed with that throbbing, melancholy bassline and Bono's voice cutting through like a beacon. Top notch.
  • Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of -- I felt stuck in this terrible song for hours -- just a total dud, even worse than Sometimes You Cant Make it On Your Own, the total stinker from last time.
So at this point we were seven songs in and I had heard two songs I really liked, one of which I already heard at the last concert. The initial buzz of the huge spectacle had worn off, the amazing visuals were becoming less amazing and I wished I had brought some water. Thankfully, they really ramped things up, reeling off a bunch of great songs with real energy and intensity.
  • No Line On The Horizon -- My favourite song off the new album, and the performance rocked -- I didn't expect it to be so great.
  • Elevation -- Another intense anthem that sounded exactly the same as the last show, and the crowd chanting along with the bridge/chorus was deafening. Good stuff.
  • In A Little While -- I had forgotten that this was one of my favourite mellow songs on an album I didn't much like. Peaceful and warm, with a slinky guitar line a lot like the better-known One. Wonderful vocal performance too -- this was a nice surprise.
  • Unknown Caller -- I thought this new song was terrible on the album (actually I still do), but somehow they totally made it work live -- very entertaining and fun, with tons of crowd participation.
  • Until The End Of The World (1:01:25 on the video) -- This was amazing, with a dark, intense performance of a song I never thought they would play. Definite highlight of the night.
  • The Unforgettable Fire -- In 2005 they played Pride and Bad, two of my fave songs off that album. This time it was the title track and MLK -- nice that they mixed it up, and this song was great, but I preferred their previous picks.
  • City Of Blinding Lights and Vertigo -- Carbon copies from the last show, and City of Blinding Lights was again a real standout, with Vertigo feeling a bit over the top to me.
  • I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight -- Another odd new song that was much better in concert than the album. It's like they were specifically written for live shows.
  • Sunday Bloody Sunday -- Still awesome; maybe even beyond awesome. I bow down before Bono on songs like this where he can still let 'er rip.
  • MLK -- I sure never expected to hear this hymn off The Unforgettable Fire. Putting one of their mellowest songs right after Sunday Bloody Sunday shouldn't really work, but it was beautiful.
  • Walk On -- Ok song, and a fine performance. It's worth mentioning that Bono didn't preach or blather nearly as much as I expected, more gracefully letting the music speak for itself. The political bits they did seemed more powerful for their subtlety.
And so they walked off the stage for the obligatory break before encores. I can hardly wait for a band to do away with this stupid ritual, and I wish it was U2 -- simply publicize it beforehand that there will be no encores, tell people when there are a few songs left, say goodbye after the last song and turn on the lights. But I digress...
  • One (1:43:15 in the video) -- Angelo said this was a highlight for him, and I had to agree. Gorgeous performance, with Bono and the Edge really in synch and squeezing every bit of emotion out of those simple lines.
  • Where The Streets Have No Name (1:50:00 in the video) -- I named this as my main highlight last time, and it was right up there again, partly because of how strongly people react to it. As far as I could tell, everyone was standing, even in the furthest, darkest, highest corners of BC Place. Wonderful experience. It would have been my favourite moment if not for...
  • Ultra Violet (Light My Way) -- This was #1 on my list of songs I had wished they'd played last time, so I was thrilled to hear it now. I don't know why any song with "Baby, baby, baby, light my way" as the chorus should be one I even tolerate, never mind love so much...but there it is. Pinnacle of the night for me, powerful and perfect.
  • With Or Without You -- Also greatness, and probably the biggest hit they didn't play on the last tour -- I was very happy. Goosebumply good, and among the best three or four songs of the night.
  • Moment of Surrender -- Weak song, lackluster performance -- a real downer way to end the show. This would have been a major addition by subtraction. It was hard for me not to spend the duration of the song cataloging the dozens of better ones they could have used to close the thing in style.
And then it was over, and we wandered out into the Vancouver rain. I'm not sure I'll go again if they come in another four years, but who knows? Although this was the primary reason for our trip, we had other adventures too -- more on that later.


The Squirrel Hunter said...


Obligitory curses.


Jeremy said...

You're doing exactly what I did after your report of the Metallica show.

Anonymous said...

In a word... jealous.

Jeremy said...

At least Ryan didn't abandon you to join me there...that would have been a different level of jealousy.

Anonymous said...

I hope Ultraviolet was better in Van than that youtube video link. It came across like Bono was completely unfocused. - Greg

Jeremy said...

Wow, you're right -- totally unfocused. The band is solid, but the Edge ends up having to sing the choruses pretty much solo as Bono fondles his stupid hanging mic and wanders around. He's all right in the verses. I remember this song being much tighter in Vancouver, but that probably reflects my joy at them playing the song at all.