Live Review: U2 in Toronto

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Shot by National Post photographer Brett Gundlock

U2: Rogers Centre, Toronto - September 16, 2009

By Jane Stevenson, Sun Media

TORONTO - Well, it wasn't under a blood red sky, but at least you could see the clouds before the sun set.

Not to mention the sight of the CN Tower nearby.

U2's 360 Degree Tour pulled into Rogers Centre last night to begin a sold-out, two-night stand at the venue with the roof open for a concert for only the second time in the stadium's history.

The only other time was six years ago for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

And the open air atmosphere made it still feel like summer in the city in mid-September, even if it got slightly chillier as the evening progressed.

The Irish rockers kicked off their two-hour set with Breathe, from their latest album, No Line on the Horizon.

"Walk out on a Toronto street," frontman Bono improvised into the song's lyrics to the delight of the crowd of 58,000.

"We got old songs, we got new songs, we got songs we can barely play, we got a spaceship," he said, the latter a reference to the real star of the show.

That would be a 150-foot-tall, mammoth spaceship-like stage and a 54-tonne state-of-the-art cylindrical video screen that eventually came apart and formed a long cone around the band later in the show during The Unforgettable Fire and City of Blinding Lights.

The group played up the futuristic bent blasting David Bowie's Space Oddity before they came out on stage, and later connected with an astronaut at the international space station in a pre-taped segment during the Passengers rarity Your Blue Room.

There was also a circular catwalk around the perimenter of the band and the musicians took a moving bridge across to get closer to the audience with Bono doing a major lap during Until the End of the World. (Not like he usually does during Where the Streets Have No Name, which was still a standout song last night.)

U2 have actually been in town since Sunday night after kicking off the North American leg on their tour on Sept. 12 in Chicago at Soldier Field and have been making the scene at TIFF, with Bono and guitarist The Edge appearing on the red carpet Monday night for Neil Jordan's Ondine starring Colin Farrell.

Bono and The Edge even taped an appearance at the Masonic Temple on Tuesday for a special edition of Elvis Costello's interview-and-performance show, Spectacle, and Costello was in last night's audience.

Having launched the 360 Degree Tour on June 30 in Barcelona, the biggest rock show of the year is, by now, a well-oiled machine even if it did take about a half-hour into the set to really ignite the crowd.

After four songs from No Line on the Horizon, which hasn't produced any real significant hits, they finally offered up the first crowdpleaser of the night, Beautiful Day, as Bono threw in more local references like the TTC and Yonge Street, and finished the song off with a snippet of Costello's Alison.

"It's our first night in this majestic half-continent that you call a country -- Canada," said Bono as he began lengthy and funny band introductions.

"Without Edge none of us would be here," he said of the guitarist. "But in our defence, without us, Edge would still be in his bedroom twiddling knobs."

But the best line came for bassist Adam Clayton: "The effortlessly stylish, citizen of the world, and sexual predator, the only man in U2 who uses face cream."

As for himself, Bono said: "I come from a long line of travelling salespeople on my mother's side, still on the road and these three men are the reason why, and the chance of what might happen here tonight."

Like when drummer Larry Mullen Jr. picked up the hand drum and did a lap around the catwalk during the new song, I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight, or the volunteers who wore masks of the face of Burma's democratically elected leader who has been under house arrest since 1990 during Walk On.

Bono also played with a lit-up, oversized dangling microphone during the second encore songs, Ultra Violet (Light My Way) and With Or Without You, while wearing a lit up jacket.

Copyright © 2009, Canoe Inc. All rights reserved.

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The whole debate has, apparently, been sparked off by the proposed erection of a statue commemorating Norman Collie and his local guide John Mackenzie on the island belstaff jackets of Skye.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on September 17, 2009 8:46 AM.

Farrell and Bono-mania as Irish take over Toronto Film Festival was the previous entry in this blog.

U2 drops in for a chat with local radio is the next entry in this blog.

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