Despite the huge crowd, U2 delivers up-close show

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By Brian McNeill, Charlottesville Daily Progress

Performing before 55,000 fans at the University of Virginia's Scott Stadium, U2 delivered a rock show on a scale never before seen in Charlottesville.

Touring in support the band's 12th studio album "No Line on the Horizon," the Irish rockers played on a massive round stage beneath a colossal contraption called "the Claw."

The stage, designed to offer the crowd a view from any angle, looked a bit like one of those pincers that grabs stuffed animals inside vending machines at Big Lots. U2's version, of course, was much, much bigger.

"We're making a space jump," Bono told the crowd, with a nod to the band's vaguely alien-looking stage. "We built this thing and been to all kinds of interesting places. We built it to be closer to you."

Somewhat surprisingly, Bono had a point. Despite the stage's size, its innovative 54-ton cylindrical video screen gave a clear and intimate view of Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr.

The band poked fun at the idea that the stage resembled an enormous robotic arachnid. In the moments before U2 took the stage, smoke billowed from the Claw as its speakers blasted David Bowie's "Space Oddity."

At a few points in the show, Bono referenced Charlottesville's ties to a certain founding father.

"We hold these truths to be self evident," he sang during "Beautiful Day." "A pledge of honor to America, to freedom, to the whole world."

He also asked the crowd: "Where is Mr. Jefferson? Is he in the house?"

The show marks the third concert at Scott Stadium. In 2001, the Dave Matthews Band played, followed by the Rolling Stones in 2005.

Thursday night's show drew fans from all corners of Virginia and beyond.

Tom Jamison, who drove up from central North Carolina, was seeing the band for the first time since 2001 and was excited to hear both old favorites and more recent hits from "No Line ..." and the previous album, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb."

"It's remarkable," he said. "Just the magnitude of this event. Four people can draw 60,000 people and fill up a football stadium."

On a hill behind the stadium's fence, a couple hundred UVa students sat on blankets and watched from outside. Rebekah Latour, a first-year student, grew up listening to her father's U2 cassette tapes. "I'm definitely a fan, mostly because of my dad," she said.

Sitting next to her on the grass, first-year Spanish student Kara Oyhenart said she was excited to catch the opening act, Muse, a British anthem rock outfit.

"We've got the best seats in the house," she said.

While the show received a rapturous response from the crowd, there was a bit of grumbling from some concertgoers over the traffic gridlock and long walks to Scott Stadium from far-flung (and expensive) parking lots across UVa's campus. Police also had to investigate at least one report of a drunken fan in the upper decks urinating on the unfortunate souls below.

On the whole, however, most had an unequivocally positive experience.

"I hope U2 keeps touring for another 20 years," said fan Jeff Parsons, wearing a U2 T-shirt from an earlier tour. "It's a perfect night."

Some concertgoers might wonder what U2 will do with its massive, reportedly $40 million stage after the conclusion of the 360 Degree Tour. Jake Berry, U2's tour production manager, said no decision has yet been made about the stage's fate. "I think the pope would look good under it," he pontificated. "Don't you?"

© 2009 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General company.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on October 2, 2009 10:05 AM.

U2; Scott Stadium; Thursday, October 1 was the previous entry in this blog.

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