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"'Discotheque' was this cocktail to get people to drink enough so we could take advantage of them the rest of the record." — Bono



by Matt Reynolds

Note: this is long but worth reading. Good story and Good Review.

Having spent years listening to U2 shows on tape, both official and bootleg- I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from my first U2 show. All expectations were exceeded.

A lifelong fan- I had, painfully, never managed to get into a U2 show. Sights and sounds of Rattle and Hum, Under a Blood Red Sky (I had to work backwards) were some of the most important images of my youth. I dreamed of being at a U2 show. It is an event every time I watch my PopMart Mexcio City tape. As I walked across the wet grass toward the Charlotte Coliseum it was unavoidable that a lifelong dream was in fact being fulfilled.

All expectations exceeded:
The song selection/setlist was unbelievable. They played Sunday Bloody Sunday- the full on rock version with the extended ending (like Under a Blood Red Sky). I never thought I would hear that in my lifetime. They played the PopMart/Mexico version of Staring at the Sun, which I absolutely love but didnt ever expect to hear again, especially in person. They played The Sweetest Thing, which until now has never been in their live repertoire. I couldnt believe they played Sunday Bloody Sunday and the great version of Staring at the Sun. I really thought I would never hear those with my own ears. Its better than having a dream fulfilled. Its having a dream fulfilled and then getting extras that you hadnt even dared to dream before. They played a number of songs from the new album, which I was glad to hear. With In A Little While being maybe the best of the best there. Bono was introducing the band, and Edge was out at the tip of the stage as a result, Bono whispered something to Edge and then quietly and smoothly came that great guitar melody for In A Little While. Terrific.

I had been worried about he crowd. I was under the (mistaken) impression that the show had not sold out, so I was apprehensive about greeting U2 for my first time in a half empty arena. The crowd arrived late- but it arrived, and happily the place was packed and excited. Much singing, much cheering.

The very best performance of the night may have been Until the End of the World near the beginning of the show. It was powerful, tight, sounded good, and the lights and staging really set that song on fire. After a series of huge successes up through Bad- The crowd and the band progressing from height to height and victory to victory, Where The Streets Have No Name was the highest peak of them all. The Everest to the rest of the Himalayas (on this night) if you will. I have never seen or been in a crowd so enthralled. I think I may have been saved or something. Streets had the band up and soaring and the crowd rocketing even above that. I had been dancing from the outset and after that frenzy I was physically exhausted. For the rest of the show I was just hanging on for dear life.

Having listened to many bootlegs I am familiar with the good and bad of how U2 shows generally sound- particularly the spotty nature of Bonos voice. Much had been said lately about Bono improving his voice and stamina, but I remained skeptical. Well- tonight the boys were in good form, exceptionally so, and in particular Bono blew me away. He came out strong- blowing my away with power an clarity. I rejoiced in that but wondered how long it would last and at what point in the evening he would start to fade. Then came the do or die moments- the songs with pivotal high notes. As I sensed these moments approaching I wondered which of two routes Bono would take. Would he sing an alternate, lower, version or would he go for the gold in which case it could be all or it could be nothing. Get ready to cringe. Here is how it went (my thoughts as narrative), Ooh, here comes. here it comes!!! ... ... Whooooo! He did it! He went for the big note and he got it! Thank God. Wait, whats this? Hes doing it again, and hitting it again, and now hes extended the tricky bit and hes having his way with it! Hes improvising with more and even higher notes! This is amazing! Its like winning a gold medal AND landing on the moon! Over and over this show exceeded every expectation I could have for it. Maybe its the first person experience and excitement talking- but this was a U2 show to end all U2 shows. The boys were in GOOD form. I hope somebody was recording this.

Some minor technical complaints overall the sound was very good for an arena but the vocal was sometimes lost in the wall of sound as often happens at these type of shows. Bonos mic started to feedback a number of times. At one point when it started to go he turned around to look at the band, held the useless mic out in front of him and shrugged his shoulders. The only other complaint is that while there was a decent deep bass rumble (I was indeed dancing), the bass guitar was muddy. So much so that not once in the entire show was it possible to distinguish individual notes from Adam. These issues aside I would rate the mix/PA sound as 7 of 10.

The show seemed very short. I dont know how long it actually was, but it felt like only about 12 songs or so. I sit around listening to U2 records at home longer than that. Hell- I sit around playing my own songs for longer than that, and I dont have one song as compelling as any that U2 play. So it seemed very short. The night before the show I went driving and listened to All That You Cant Leave Behind all the way through twice. That was easily longer than the show tonight.

I knew that Walk On had been the last song in Florida- so I hoped that the Charlotte crowd would keep up the ruckus after that and maybe get another encore. Emotion ran high as Walk On was extended and extended again.. into a long, rocking, climax. "Yeeeahhhhh!!!" The house lights stayed off and the crowd was wild- but my heart sank when I saw Larry walking out of the building. Luckily the crowd was not giving in. I think we were as loud after Walk On as we had been all night. The crowd kept it up and I hoped and hoped that the band, even if they were walking away, would be moved by the intense plea for more for the Charlotte Coliseum. Recorded music started to come over the PA but the crowd kept on. Maybe, just maybe... Important seconds passed and the crowd kept at it, and then the house lights came on. If anybody recorded this you will actually be able to hear the intense cheer of the crowd die in a collective moan. YEAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHuunggghh. Come back, come back, we want more. Really I could have listened to them all night. If they felt like doing a Grateful Dead thing and playing for hours and hours on end- I would love it. U2 has shown legendary restraint over the years in limiting the number of songs they put on their albums. Their ability to censor themselves has produced taught, high quality, and very listenable albums. Well I wish for just the opposite here. I would stay there all night and listen to them play. I would listen to them rehearse. It did feel very short, or at least I would have liked it to go on for hours- and I really felt quite bad about the bit at the end. To leave an adoring audience high and dry like that seems like bad form. If the audience are kind enough to sit there and cheer at an empty stage for several minutes on end as a sign that they want more- the least you could do is indulge them with a song.

Well I dont want to end on that note so Ill allow my thoughts to wander back to the glory of the first set.

In a Little While / Surely youll be mine!

Also of note:
One, which although a popular favorite and surely a consistent highpoint for concertgoers, I feel often sounds pretty bad live. I dont think I have heard a single show where there wasnt some point in One that was embarrassingly bad. Not so tonight. Bono still had his voice, even at the end, and he also refrained (partially) from replacing the vocal melody with less melodic Frank Sinatra-esque crooning. Also of note was that Bono played a little guitar into to the song while edge played the main melody.

Same goes for With or Without You. Always a fan favorite, and almost always a vocal minefield. Bono did pretty well with it. The version they played tonight was straight off the Joshua Tree, which surprised me, except for an extension while Bono did the obligatory dance with a female fan.

The show exceeded all expectations. It was some kind of religious experience. Oh how I wish it would have gone on and on.

-Matt Reynolds

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