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[W]e have a bass player called Adam Clayton who is the only bass player you would miss if he wasn't there. -- Bono


U2 tour larger than life

- May 30, 2011

by Darryl Sterdan

WINNIPEG -- Sometimes, bigger is better.

And when you're talking concerts, they dont come any bigger or better than U2s 360 Tour stop at Canad Inns Stadium on Sunday.

The Irish rockers first trip to Winnipeg in 14 years was historically humongous on several fronts: Contemporary rocks biggest band were playing to a sold-out record crowd of 50,000 frenzied fans on the worlds largest and most intricate stage during the biggest-selling, best-attended tour in history (and easily the most feverishly anticipated show in this town for years, with fans flying in from as far away as Japan and camping outside the stadium for good spots).

But all those superlatives, and all that spectacle the 50-metre-tall alien-spider Claw rigging, the eyepopping light show, the circular stage with its outer ring and moving bridges, the shapeshifting wraparound video screen, the (believe it or not) pre-concert fighter- jet flyovers would have meant little without songs and showmanship to back it up.

Luckily, U2 were larger than life in that regard too. From the moment they took the stage around 9 p.m. to the strains of David Bowie's Space Oddity and opened, ironically enough, with Even Better Than the Real Thing the iconic quartet proved that pound for pound and night for night (including this Sunday, chilly Sunday), they may very well be the greatest live act on the planet.

Bono certainly earned his share of that accolade. Sauntering and bounding around his $35 million playground, the black leather-clad singer was the consummate frontman, energizing the crowd with every rock-star gesture, coaxing them to sing along with every soaring chorus and winning them over by dismissing the unseasonably cool and breezy conditions.

We don't feel the cold in Winnipeg, he assured us. You're Canadian; we're Irish.

While Bono was the obvious focal point of the night, the rest of the band weren't playing second fiddle. White-haired (and white-suited) Adam Clayton, like all great bassists, was a study in understated cool, casually strolling and posing while unspooling thick, propulsive lines.

Guitarist The Edge sporting his trademark skullcap and goatee was only slightly more animated, focusing his concentration on picking his chiming guitar lines, manipulating them with his vast array of effects and handling backup vocal chores through his headset mic.

And drummer Larry Mullen Jr. bundled up in a scarf and sweater as he thwacked away on his rotating drum riser was more Ringo or Charlie than Neil Peart, but efficiently effective at his role: Holding down the centre of the sound (and the centre of the stage) so Bono and Edge can roam where they want and still find their way back.

That would come soon enough. First, the band dished up a handful of hits that literally spanned their career. Real Thing was followed by the rousing 1980 breakthrough I Will Follow (from their debut Boy) and the groovy Get on Your Boots (from their most recent outing No Line on the Horizon).

Then came a soothing Magnificent, a hypnotically funky Mysterious Ways, a fuzzed-up Elevation that included a "whoo-hoo" singalong refrain, and a clanging version of Until the End of the World, which ended with Bono and Edge joining hands across the gap of two moving walkways.

But the real fun began when Bono started to tweak and twist songs, sometimes on the fly.

He tossed a bit of Where Have All the Flowers Gone? into End of the World. One included a verse of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? Walk On closed with Youll Never Walk Alone. I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (which allowed Mullen to leave his kit and slap a djembe while strolling the circular walkway) ended up sporting multiple personalities, with portions of Discotheque, Talking Heads Life During Wartime and Psycho Killer, among others. Of course, nothing hit home quite as solidly as Beautiful Day, which found Bono quoting Neil Youngs Heart of Gold, and Vertigo, which was spiked with BTOs You Aint Seen Nothin Yet (earlier in the night, he pulled a young woman out of the audience to help him read the lyrics).

Fun as it was to follow his musical detours, it was hard not to become fixated on the production.

While it didnt quite live up to its stated goal of being so big it made the stadium seem small, it couldn't fail to impress the bejeezus out of you. For instance: The video screen came alive during Miss Sarajevo, slowly stretttccchhhing downward from the underside of the Claw until it reached the stage and encircled the band. It raised up enough during City of Blinding Lights to reveal the musicians playing in lighted suits while the fully illuminated Claw and spire throbbed and flashed, with giant spotlights at the top shining upward to the heavens.

It was simply one of the most stunning rock-show spectacles I have witnessed and Ive watched Jimmy Page playing his Les Paul with a bow inside a giant green laser pyramid.
Twice.

From there, U2's creative arc ended more or less the way they had begun: With more hits, from the crushing Vertigo and the monumental Sunday Bloody Sunday to the anthemic One and the grand Where the Streets Have No Name.

For the second encore, Bono came out swinging on a microphone that was set inside a glowing red ring and suspended from the rigging. At any other show, it would have been a highlight; here it was only the third or fourth-coolest moment of the night.

Not that anybody complained about it nor about the fact they skipped their usual closer Moment of Surrender (maybe the group werent quite as immune to the cold as they maintained; it was pretty nippy by that point).

By the time they wrapped with With or Without You, theyd supplied 130 minutes of the most powerful, passionate and stylishly presented rock this city has seen for some time. Or is likely to see for some time.

Yep, its all downhill from here. Even though its only May and weve still got a slew of arena-sized acts coming down the pipe this summer it seems fairly obvious that barring an unexpected visit from the likes of The Stones, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd or Bruce Springsteen, this baby was concert of the year. Maybe even concert of the decade.

Cant get much better than that.

Set List:

Even Better Than the Real Thing

I Will Follow

Get on Your Boots

Magnificent

Mysterious Ways

Elevation

Until the End of the World (w/ Where Have All the Flowers Gone?)

All I Want is You

Stay (Faraway, So Close)

Beautiful Day (w/ Heart of Gold)

Pride (In the Name of Love)

Miss Sarajevo

Zooropa

City of Blinding Lights

Vertigo (w/ You Aint Seen Nothin Yet)

I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (w/ Discotheque, Life During Wartime, Psycho Killer, Please)

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Scarlet

Walk On (w/ Youll Never Walk Alone)

Happy Birthday (to Amnesty International)

Encore:

Aung San Suu Kyi Message

One (w/ Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?) Where the Streets Have No Name

Encore 2:

Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me

With or Without You


darryl.sterdan@sunmedia.ca

@darryl_sterdan

blogs.canoe.ca/ent

facebook.com/darryl.sterdan

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