Reunited with my all-time favorite band last night at Gillette Stadium. This marked my third U2 concert and completed a perfect record of my attending every U2 tour this decade.
The stripped-down Elevation tour with its heart-shaped stage ramp will always have a sentimental place in my heart, being the first U2 show I finally was able to attend after missing their every tour during the 1990's. The Vertigo tour has some pleasant memories but is somewhat tainted by the band's overt political posturing. (Lads, I'm trying to rock out to your hits. Stop telling me to text Nelson Mandela's cell number to one.org.)
All things considered, U2 360 was the best U2 show I've been to. It was phenomenal.
I don't know how to best describe the 360 stage, besides "world's largest Erector set". Here's a picture of me overlooking it:
And here's a picture of the world's largest Erector set all lit up:
Bono, during his first chat with the audience after they finished an awesome rendition of Get On Your Boots, explained that the 360 stage is actually designed as a spaceship, "to bring us closer to you. Lift off!"
In terms of production values, U2 outdid themselves with 360. The visual and aural stimulation were unlike anything I've ever experienced in the many, many concerts I've attended over the last 20 years. The stadium was bathed with lights of every color. Mirrored monitors descended from the top of the archways that would shimmer in glorious white light. A disco ball effect at the top of the "spaceship" succeeded in drawing us all in so that the enormous 70,000+ seat Gillette Stadium felt as intimate as the Boston clubs U2 first performed in over two decades ago. It was at times magical, at times futuristic. It was unforgettable.
Special effects aside, we all came for the most important thing, the music, and U2 didn't disappoint there either. Here is the set list:
Magnificent, No Line On The Horizon, Get On Your Boots, Mysterious Ways, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Elevation, Your Blue Room, Beautiful Day, Unknown Caller, Until the End of the World, Stay (Faraway, So Close), The Unforgettable Fire, City of Blinding Lights / Mofo (snippet), Vertigo / Stories for Boys (snippet), I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (remix), Sunday Bloody Sunday, MLK, Walk On. First encore: One, Where the Streets Have No Name / Amazing Grace (snippet). Second encore: Ultraviolet (Light My Way), With Or Without You, Moment of Surrender.
They played The Unforgettable Fire. Repeat: they played The Unforgettable Fire! I never, ever thought I'd have the chance to hear U2 perform that song live. Once they did that, I was on cloud nine. Good Lord, everything else was gravy after that.
What's more, this was an inspired song selection spanning virtually their entire catalog. "No Line on the Horizon" was of course represented well, being the album they're touring to support. The pleasant surprise was how they dug out songs from their lesser known efforts.
Your Blue Room was a total surprise, from the little known (beloved by me) "Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1" album from 1995.
"Zooropa", another personal favorite from the 90's that gets little love elsewhere got a shout out with (Stay) Faraway, So Close!, which knocked my socks off. An angel hit the ground.
"Achtung Baby" was represented by One, naturally, and Mysterious Ways (cool!) but I never saw (a personal favorite) Ultraviolet (Light My Way) and Until the End of the World coming. (I am likely the only person in the stadium who immediately yelled "Proof of Life!" because Until the End of the World was used in the soundtrack to that little-seen, little-loved Russell Crowe/Meg Ryan kidnapping movie.)
"All That You Can't Leave Behind" was showcased by Beautiful Day ("Livin' like a hermit!" - a reference five people will get), Elevation ("Lara Croft!"), and Walk On. The end of Beautiful Day got an unexpected bonus when the band worked in the chorus of The Police's King of Pain. There's a little black spot on the sun today. That's my soul up there.
Vertigo (impossible not to think of Bono on South Park - "Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!") and City of Blinding Lights, the Barack Obama theme song, stumped for "How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb".
As for "The Joshua Tree", we got Where The Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, and With Or Without You. The most surprising and wonderful thing about With Or Without You is that Bono actually sang almost the entire song. In the past shows I've seen, Bono expends little effort into With Or Without You, singing just a few lyrics and letting the audience do most of the real work. This time, Bono really sang it.
Honestly, I was so caught up in the show and so pleased by the surprises from the band, I didn't even notice until later what was omitted. No Bad. No Pride (In the Name of Love), which is a bit of a shock. No The Fly. Those are the big ones missing.
Now, you'll never have everything you want from a U2 show. You have to know that going in. Their catalog is just too massive. I'm sure some were disappointed by the omissions, but I've heard all those missing songs in prior concerts I've attended. Hearing the songs I never expected more than made up for it. (Once more: they played The Unforgettable Fire!)
It wouldn't be a U2 show without some shenanigans involving Bono bringing a woman on stage to dance with. Even this was a hilarious reversal of expectations. As soon as the woman gained her balance on the inner circle, Bono leaped into her arms and had her carry him around the stage!
It also wouldn't be a U2 show without some political statements, but this time, thankfully and to the band's credit, they waited an hour to beat us over the head with the politics. The triple shot of MLK, Sunday, Bloody Sunday and Walk On that closed the main set brought the politics but it wasn't anywhere near as theatrical and uncomfortably melodramatic as in the Vertigo tour (as seen in U2 3D) when Bono was blindfolded and pantomimed being executed as a prisoner of war. For Walk On, a troupe of people marched across the outer ring of the stage and stood there as the band performed, then dutifully walked off stage with the band. It was simple and much more enjoyable.
As the closing statement on the decade of the 2000's by U2, the 360 show was just about perfect for me. It was their most elaborate, stimulating, and overall most enjoyable show that I've attended. Between the three shows I've been to, I've heard just about every great song from by U2, save one. My favorite U2 song of all:
A Sort of Homecoming.
That's the song I'm chasing from U2. When they come back for the next tour, I'll be there. If they don't play A Sort of Homecoming, I'll just go to the next one, and the next one until they do. And so on, and so on. Until I find what I'm looking for.