Live Remix of "Crazy Tonight"
at Giants Stadium, Sept. 24
U2 brings the U2 360Â° Tour into Giants Stadium, sets a record for attendance and leaves the fans wanting more, but is "more" really necessary?
By Jonathan Wayne, U2Station.com Webmaster
Minimalism isn't something U2 does well.
Nor is disappointment.
On Thursday night in front of a record crowd of 85,000 people in East Rutherford, New Jersey, I witnessed the world's most grandiose and gargantuan rock band rock the socks off of Giants Stadium. With its 170 foot tall, 390 ton "Claw" (or Spaceship) rising into the air, 7 story, 500,000 pixel and 54 ton video screen, and 1.2 million watt sound system, the only thing missing was a rocket launch to the moon.
From my vantage point in the mezzanine level behind the stage and in a galaxy far away, I could barely see the pilon at the top of the "Claw" as it jutted out into the sky above. In the last row under the upper roof, the flourescent lights stayed on during the entire concert. The glare of the overhead house lights bounced off my glasses and enforced my realization that it really does create a different impression on where you sit (or stand) during a concert. Nevertheless, I was here amongst the tens of thousands to see U2 on the world's largest travelling rock n' roll production ever created.
Bono strutted out on stage behind The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. and kicked the show off with "Breathe". The wild eyed, megalomaniac look on Bono's face in those first few moments of Breathe paint a picture of the man himself. While the other seemingly low-key members of U2 aim for big sounds, Bono is in a league all by himself. He is the ultimate showman, frontman, rockman, seething with grandiosity unparalleled by the next biggest frontman, Mick Jagger or whomever that may be. Perhaps he is the Rock n' Rolla, and that's without stealing a page from Guy Ritchie. However you want to define Bono (or Paul Hewson), his presence on stage is cathartic, as I saw the infinitesimal amount of hands, arms, torsos and heads of U2 fans on the stadium floor swaying in all 360 degree directions from the first chords of "Breathe" to the final seconds of "Moment Of Surrender", 2 1/2 hours later.
Essentially turning the early part of the setlist upside down, "Get On Your Boots" followed "Breathe", and fan favorites "Mysterious Ways" and "Beautiful Day" came after that. When U2 turned back to the new songs, they delivered a 1-2 punch of "No Line On The Horizon" and "Magnificent" and a rousing version of "Elevation".
The only revealing mistake tonight was when Bono botched "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" as he forgot the 2nd verse and restarted the rest of the song again from the beginning as Edge continued on guitar.
It wasn't until "Vertigo" that got the audience singing and the show blasted off into Earth's lower orbit with the remix of "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight", by far one of the highlights of the night. Giants Stadium turned into a gigantic New York meat-packing district night club complete with the revolving lights of a super massive disco ball. It was the closest to a successful live experiment that U2 has attained since the Popmart Tour.
With more serious songs in store in the 2nd half of the concert, Bono and the band turned their attention to Iran and its citizens with "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and a fitting snippet of The Clash's "Rock The Casbah". Hearkening back to the 1980's, U2 performed the minimalist MLK, resonating with near-theta wave sounds before launching into "Walk On", dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, the famous opposition leader who is currently under house arrest in Myanmar. Over a hundred supporters marched around on stage holding masks of her image in front of their faces. Further shoutouts went out to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, cleric and activist Desmond Tutu, rocker Bruce Springsteen, who celebrated his birthday the day before and countless others including Peter Buck, Julian Lennon, Rick Rubin, Jimmy Iovine, Jeff Koons, Mickey Leigh, Phil Ramone, Joe Cerrell, Josh Bolton, Senator Bill Frist and Sir Michael Jagger.
After a brief encore, the most dazzling and unexpected of all performances came with "Ultra Violet (Light My Way)", with Bono swinging around on a long cable attached to a glowing red "steering wheel-microphone" (as best as I can describe). On top of that, with the fog machines in full force, Bono wore a type of laser jacket with over a hundred laser beams emitting from within as he (literally) swung around like a monkey on stage. With performance aside, this song is one of the great tunes on Achtung Baby, still their finest cd to date.
After the concert, I could only smile after I heard U2 broke the attendance record as Bono stated: "News just in. We've broken every record for attendance in this stadium - including the Pope. Sorry Bruce - we know its your birthday and all...I know they're knocking this place down...we probably won't be here again before the wrecking ball but it was a magical place for us as well as the Giants".
So do all these theatrics and grand production matter? In my opinion, no. If you strip down the materials and get to the core of the music, U2 is more powerful in an intimate theater moreso than a gigantic football stadium. As the band have aged gracefully over the years, one thing that still eludes me is Bono's modesty (or lack thereof). If he's not out saving Africa, he's sitting across from world leaders at economic summits around the world, having lunch with the U.S. President or still trying to attain the Nobel Peace Prize. This is all fine and dandy but I'd rather see more U2 albums and more focus in the studio and less emphasis on breaking the Guinness Book of World Records with the biggest rock n' roll tour of all time.
Speaking of Guinness, I had a few of those before the show tonight. Those were my moments of saving grace in the midst of Bono's Amazing Grace.
If one day U2 decides to do the Zero Gravity Tour in a spaceship in orbit around Planet Earth, that may very well be a reality if the band invests in one of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic starships, but until then, the U2 360Â° Tour is U2's science fiction reality. When Bono uttered "turn this place into the Milky Way, turn off all these lights" before "Moment Of Surrender" tonight, the sky was the limit.
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