WhatÕs it like behind the scenes at a U2 concert? John Katsilometes finds out —
and even meets former President Bill Clinton. Read about at lasvegassun.com/kats.
Get On Your Boots
I Still HavenÕt Found What IÕm Looking For/Stand By Me/Viva Las Vegas
Stuck In a Moment You CanÕt Get Out Of
No Line on the Horizon
In a Little While
Until the End of the World
City of Blinding Lights
IÕll Go Crazy If I DonÕt Go Crazy Tonight (Remix)
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Where the Streets Have No Name
Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
With or Without You
Moment of Surrender
When U2Õs 360 Tour touched down in Las Vegas last week, the biggest band in the world tried some sleight of hand, using the largest stage in rock history, a four-pronged claw with moving ramps, smoke, lights and swirling video screens, to achieve what frontman Bono has described as Òintimacy on a grand scale.Ó
In other words: WeÕre just four guys playing rock ÕnÕ roll — in a crazy spaceship, which happens to be parked in Sam Boyd Stadium.
For the most part, the Irish rockers pulled it off. For more than two hours, U2 rolled through three decades of hits, performing in the round to about 40,000 people. And, in an effort to prove its own relevance, the band drew the bulk of its 23-song set from its last three albums, starting with 2000Õs ÒAll That You CanÕt Leave Behind.Ó WhatÕs more, U2 started the night with three songs from its latest record, the artistsÕ equivalent of shoveling cough medicine down a screaming childÕs throat.
We know whatÕs good for you, and youÕre going to like it.
Strange thing is, I did. When I first heard ÒNo Line on the HorizonÓ I thought it had some real gems (see title track and ÒBreatheÓ) that got lost in an uneven album. Apparently I wasnÕt alone. The record barely charted platinum, a disappointment by U2Õs mega-selling standards.
But the one-two-three punch at the opening of Friday nightÕs show made me reconsider.
U2 wants its newer work to fit snugly in a catalog of classics. They werenÕt always successful (An acoustic treatment of ÒStuck In a Moment You CanÕt Get Out OfÓ fell flat, especially coming after the ÒJoshua TreeÓ hit ÒI Still HavenÕt Found What IÕm Looking ForÓ) but the stadiumÕs starship treatment gave this decadeÕs songs newfound life.
I will dare to say that ÒIÕll Go Crazy If I DonÕt Go Crazy Tonight,Ó which frankly sucks on the new album, was one of the highlights of the night. U2 essentially remixed a slow-and-dull sleeper into a frenzied, electronic anthem. Images of the bandÕs heads bopped on the video screens as drummer Larry Mullen Jr. took a break from his drum kit and walked the circular stage beating a djembe. Bono led the crowd in a dancehall rave courtesy of guitarist The Edge and bassist Adam Clayton.
One song, however, that canÕt be saved is ÒUnknown Caller,Ó also from ÒNo Line.Ó Its forced references to computer commands (ÒForce quit and move to trash ... Restart and reboot yourselfÓ) make it, well, embarrassing.
Bono condensed the vast space of Sam Boyd Stadium by relating directly to Las Vegas. After ÒBeautiful DayÓ he introduced the band, giving them each a Vegas lounge actÕs name. ÒIÕm Wayne Newton,Ó he said. Later, he said the band was proud to play in the hometown of the Killers. And Bono made some lucky kidÕs night when he helped him climb onto a roving ramp during ÒCity of Blinding Lights.Ó The two then ran around the stage, before Bono gave the kid his trademark sunglasses.
The $750,000 a day of overhead, 200 trucks, 400 employees and more than 250 speakers arenÕt for naught, but the spaceship didnÕt really come to life until three-quarters of the way through the set. During a riveting ÒSunday Bloody Sunday,Ó the screens went green, showing scenes of this yearÕs Iranian elections, which gave new meaning to the line, ÒHow long must we sing this song?Ó He dedicated the song to Òthe heroes in the streets of TehranÓ before using ÒWalk OnÓ to honor imprisoned Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi. People holding masks of the pro-democracy activist ringed the band.
This is the only band that can get a stadium full of fans to sit through a political speech by Desmond Tutu — shown on the screen as the intro to ÒOne.Ó
U2 doesnÕt need to collaborate with the Black Eyed Peas to be relevant. Time and human events are on its side.
The band mixed up the set with rarities such as ÒUnforgettable FireÓ and non-single album favorites ÒUntil the End of the WorldÓ and ÒUltra Violet (Light My Way),Ó the latter of which featured Bono in a jacket glowing with red lights, dangling from a neon-lit microphone that descended from the sky.
In the encore, ÒWhere the Streets Have No NameÓ brought the band into tight formation around MullenÕs drum kit, moving the crowd to sing along. It was the best moment of the night. And U2 was clearly gratified by the response.
Stadium shows clearly have their limitations. For most of the crowd, the band looks like a bunch of ants crawling around on stage. But U2 did its best to shrink the distance with video, spectacle and sheer engagement. The whole spaceship set came together when Bono asked the crowd to hold up their cell phones during closer ÒMoment of Surrender,Ó giving the stadium the feel of outer space.
Earlier in the night, Bono riffed off of Vegas. ÒAll performers, sometimes we end up on our knees, but we all come to Las Vegas.Ó
If FridayÕs performance is any indication, U2 has many years to go before itÕs ready for the showroom at the Flamingo.
It was, as Bono put it, Òa special night in the desert.Ó
Michael J. Mishak can be reached at 259-2347 or at email@example.com.
Source: Las Vegas Sun