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"The essence of U2 is not something that happened in 1983 or 1993. It includes from 1980 to 2000. You know, all that you can't leave behind, yes, to me the best bit of U2." — Bono



by BF

Hmm.

Perhaps it's because I had the Monday and Wednesday shows under my belt already and knew what to expect, but I liked Friday night's show the least of the three in Toronto (so far), until the last 20 minutes or so. (I almost feel sacreligious for saying that, as I seem to be the only person who wasn't completely blown away by tonight's performance!)

There wasn't any one thing wrong with the show; in fact, it was still a powerful and impressive performance. (Hell, even a run-of-the-mill U2 gig is a thousand times better than the best efforts of many other bands.) But there were just a bunch of little things that ... I don't know, disappointed? me, or weren't what I was expecting, and while they weren't a big deal individually, when I added them up, it personally led to me enjoying the show not as much as the other two.

For example, I don't like 'City Of Blinding Lights' as an opener. I don't think it's powerful enough, it's too mellow. It's a beautiful song and it deserves its place in the set list, just not as the opening song. Give me the raw energy of 'Vertigo' any day; it whips the crowd up into a frenzy more. Also, much as I like 'The Ocean' and it was a rare treat to hear it, its placement in the set really killed the crowd's energy. Going from 'Vertigo' and 'Elevation' to that brought everything down a level. It just seemed like a weird experiment gone wrong, particularly as they aborted the song early and went into 'Beautiful Day'.

I really missed the crowd singing the "No More!" part of 'Sunday Bloody Sunday', I was looking forward to that, and we didn't get to do it. And even though it's contrived and he does it every night, I missed Bono's snippet of "Father Abraham" and the "Jesus, Jew, Mohammed, it's true" bit.

Also, much more than the other two nights, I thought Bono really seemed to have problems with vocals and timing. At many points in the set, Adam, Larry and the Edge almost drowned him out ... this concert was MUCH louder than the previous two (my ears are still ringing!). He messed up the lyrics to numerous songs, but that's a minor quibble (I suppose it must get boring to sing the exact same thing, night after night).

I also found the two videographers at the end very distracting ... I know they were filming for the video for "All Because of You", but they just seemed really in-your-face and I kept looking at them instead of the band.

I was also looking forward to seeing who Bono would drag up on stage with him during "With or Without You", and it was sad that that didn't happen.

Still, in the grand scheme of things, these are trivialites. It was very moving and sweet when Bono dedicated "Miracle Drug" to Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. And I loved the little story he told about his father conducting opera on the family stereo with his mother's knitting needles before introducing "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own." (a song that still moves me to tears, every time.)

I think a large part of my problem with the show had to do with the crowd. Many people in my section (halfway back in the 100s, Adam's side of the stage) were sitting throughout the whole show (a travesty!) or were too busy making out, talking to each other, making phone calls (and not during "One", either) ... they just didn't seem into it. Put it this way, I was the only one standing up and cheering during Arcade Fire's intro. It's hard to keep the energy and enthusiasm up when everyone around you seems so apathetic. I also was looking around the arena during songs like "Beautiful Day" and "Pride", and while the crowd was strong and cheering for the first verse or so, about a third of the way into the songs, they settled down and were being really passive again. Even the ovation after "Streets" was by far the shortest of the three nights. I was very disappointed in the crowd's reaction (except for the second encore).

I was all set to categorize this concert as "Good, but not Great" in my scale of U2 shows, when they pulled a rabbit out of their collective hats at the end. "Fast Cars" was totally wicked -- I love that song, and live, it sounds just awesome (even better than Monday, because I was so caught off guard Monday!). The B.B. King phone call was really sweet -- I was so sure he was going to come on stage with them (Bad Bono! Bad Bono for teasing us like that! ;) ), but the call and singing of "Happy Birthday" was really cool. Happy Birthday, BB!

Then came the magical moment (there's always one at every show) that just defined the entire evening. Bono was out on the catwalk and asked, "Where's the rock and roll band?" (I had no idea what he was on about, and thought, "Um ... behind you? On stage?") Then, he bends down into the audience and talks to some guy and asks how many there are of them. Bono repeats to the crowd, "There are four of you, but one of you is in the bathroom ... the bassist is in the bathroom ... is he throwing up?"

Bono said, "We swore after the last time we did this that we'd never do it again", but the next thing you know, all four of these guys are being helped over the security barricades and brought up on stage, to deafening cheers from the audience! Edge played guitar with them to guide them along, but Adam and Larry graciously gave up their bass and drums, and the "new U2" settled in to play a pretty darn good version of "Out Of Control"! I wasn't expecting much, but they were good! Major props to them ... can you imagine playing live not only in front of that many people, but with U2 themselves staring at you from behind? Talk about pressure! At one point, Bono had to guide the singer around to make him face the audience, because he was singing to Bono and not the crowd, which made me laugh. Halfway through, U2 reclaimed their instruments and we were treated to a smoking version of the rest of the song, one of my favourites, and a fantastic surprise. The funniest part of the whole thing was when the singer guy asked if he could take a swig from Bono's bottle of water ("Sure ... the water's for everyone," Bono joked), and wound up walking off stage with it. Heh! But major kudos to those guys, they stood up to the test and passed with flying colours!

That whipped the crowd (and me) right back up into a frenzy again, only to take it even higher with the closing of "40", the chorus of which, I am pleased to say, people were still singing as we poured out of the ACC.

One more night and then it's all over ... I can't believe it!

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