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You'll never see the band emerge from the dressing room until at least half an hour after each show, and it's not because they're taking showers. [E]very night the five of us sit down and deconstruct the show. -- Paul McGuinness

What Time Is It In The World? - U2 360° Tour Anaheim Stadium

- June 19, 2011

by Rick Damigella

On Friday night, just over a year after they were forced to reschedule their return to Southern California, U2 played the first of two shows which will likely go down as among the greatest concerts to ever take over the playing field of Anaheim Stadium. And even though I was perched high above the stage in the View Level, I've never felt so close to a band as they played live before.

Having also been in the audience when U2 gave their record-breaking performance at the Rose Bowl on October 25th, 2009, I was interested to see how this performance would differ. While this is still the same tour, with the same gargantuan stage, the differences between Friday night's concert and the Rose Bowl were very apparent. The most obvious thing was how much more this concert was for the fans in attendance.

To call the Rose Bowl show epic would be the grossest of understatements. It was a concert for the world. Besides being the largest concert audience in US history, it was filmed for DVD release and was shown on YouTube to 10 million people, becoming the site's most watched live streamed event, making it, literally, a global event. And as such, I couldn't help feeling like the band was detached from the tens of thousands in attendance, just ever so slightly. That was not the case Friday night.

Even sitting in section 409 of the View Level (the upper deck), I have never felt so close to a band as they performed live. Indeed, I have been in smaller venues, closer to the stage and not felt a connection with the performer the way I did Friday night. It didn't matter there were over 50,000 people in Angel Stadium, U2 were playing for each and every person there, individually. Thus is the power and the magic of a U2 performance.

This was the 96th concert on the multi-year 360° Tour. Known for mixing things up, the band played a set list filled with welcome surprises, not the least of which were the inclusion of "I Will Follow", "Miss Sarajevo" and "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" along with some short pieces of other artists' songs. Here is the full set list:

Even Better Than The Real Thing
I Will Follow
Get On Your Boots
Mysterious Ways/The Great Curve (Talking Heads cover)
Until The End Of The World
Happy Birthday
All I Want Is You
Stay (Far Away, So Close!)/In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning (Frank Sinatra cover)
Beautiful Day/Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)
Pride (In The Name of Love)
Miss Sarajevo
City of Blinding Lights
Vertigo/Are You Gonna Go My Way (Lenny Kravitz cover)
I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight/Discothèque/Life During Wartime/Psycho Killer (both Talking Heads covers)
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Walk On/You'll Never Walk Alone (Gerry and the Pacemakers cover)

One/United We Stand (The Brotherhood Of Man cover)
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (The Shirelles cover)/Where The Streets Have No Name
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
With or Without You
Moment of Surrender

"Happy Birthday" is included because for the first time in U2's three and a half decade history, their manager, Paul McGuinness joined the band on stage during a performance. The occasion was Paul's 60th birthday was on Thursday, and Bono led 50,000+ people in the loudest sing-a-long of "Happy Birthday" I've ever been a part of. Just prior to this wonderful moment, Bono introduced the members of the band, and playfully described the careers they might have had were it not for U2. Most notably, was the clever sense of self-deprecating humor he used in describing The Edge's alternate career as a city planner, and his own as a theatre critic. This moment can be viewed in full below.

In stereotypical Southern California fashion, some people left very early from the concert. From where I sat, you could look out over the center field wall and see a sporadic stream of cars exiting the parking lot as early as an hour into the set. Don't be shocked. This is very normal for the area. Locals who don't exhibit this behavior have a name for those who do: "Arrive in the 3rd, leave in the 7th".

And what did they miss by leaving? U2 playing as they should have: like the biggest rock band in the world. The concert was filled with that sense of wonder that only U2 can create. I was told by my friend that I squeed when "I Will Follow" began (obviously, I was loud). Chills went down my spine when The Edge began chiming out the opening notes of "Where The Streets Have No Name". Looking down on the GA section, you could see a group of yellow-jacketed security guards dancing with other fans. Props must be given to the people behind the scenes, especially the ones dialing in the sound, as they crafted a fantastic listening experience for the venue, at least from where my ears took it in.

If you follow my 140-character music musings on Twitter, then you saw how many pictures I sent from the concert. Tweeting pictures of each song in the set wasn't something I was planning to do. Pardon the cliché, but it just sort of happened. The reactions and replies received from U2 fans as far away as Brazil kept me posting until my battery ran too low to send more. Like a modern version of Ham Radio, Twitter let U2 fans from around our Global Village visually enjoy the show.

Friday night I shared an incredible, communal experience with people I will likely never know but for the few brief moments we connected through Twitter. Across the miles and continents, through a mutual love for music and the sharing of pictures, strangers connected.

U2's own words rang truer than ever for those witnessing Friday's concert: "Tonight, we can be as one tonight".

And we were.

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