Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fifteen - o - eight, at a stadium in North London

I went to see U2 with family. It was a lifetime ambition, and the reaction from many of the fans on the U2 website (many of whom travel to several of the concerts) was that this was a good place to fulfil it.

I wanted to write a song-by-song reaction, but I also wanted to say something, before the immediacy of the concert had faded, so this is a shorter post than I originally intended.

On the back of books like "Get Up Off Your Knees", I have to say that I was expecting an experience that was more ... well, almost sacramental. It wasn't, though it was thoroughly amazing.

U2's concerts have always trod a subtle path, as illustrated in an interview Bono did with a Chicago newspaper in 2001. They make the case for the new album, as is proper - there were seven tracks from "No Line on the Horizon" on Saturday. But also, they have a selection of songs that become the heart of the concert - that pretty much define U2 not just musically but in terms of their political voice. This selection gradually shifts over time - "Bullet the Blue Sky" didn't feature on Saturday. And on top of that, they have a huge repertoire of amazing songs to draw on to fill out the programme.

In the case for the new album, we had "Breathe", "No line", "Boots" and "Magnificent" as the first four songs. "Unknown caller", a psalm with chorus responses from a divine voice, projected the divine words so that the congregation - I mean audience - was singing them back to the band. The remixed version of "Go Crazy" is, in my opinion, unusually better than the album version - it is loud and ... well, crazy. And the band signed off the last encore with "Moment of Surrender".

The tracks that every audience expects to hear are, I think, "Beautiful Day", probably "Until the End of the World" and "City of Blinding Lights", "Vertigo", "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", "Pride", "Where the Streets have no name" and "One". "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" picked up as a reference point the post-election riots in Iran - how long must we sing this song indeed! And they miscued at the end! Afterwards, the band grinned sheepishly at one another. "Walk on" was a fairly inevitable addition, given the presence of Aun Sang Suu Kyi in the news at the moment.

And then the choice of extras. "New Years Day", "Still haven't found" - with first verse sung by the audience - "Far away, so close", "Bad", "With or without you" are all popular live. We also had "Unforgettable Fire", "Sleep Tonight" as an intro to "Walk On" and "Ultraviolet". There was almost nothing I would have swapped away from the programme, although personally I feel "Pride" is a little worn out. In terms of additions? I was surprised that "Stand Up Comedy" from the new album didn't feature - it made the tour tee-shirts. "Stuck in a moment" is a song that happens to mean a lot to the family, but hey, there were quite a lot of other people who would have had opinions too!

This was an amazing evening out, and I'm looking forward to doing it again!

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