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"For a lot of bands it seems to be all important to get their single into the Top Ten. I guess we've always felt ourselves to be more of an albums band anyway." — Edge

by Nick S

I am a long-time U2 fan... since the early 80's. I have seen 4 U2 concerts, with my first ever concert - U2 or otherwise - being the Joshua Tree at BC Place in 1987. Until last night, that was the best concert I had ever seen. While the JT concert of '87 will always be special to me, I think the boys from Dublin may have surpassed it last night in Vancouver. The show was absolutely brilliant - an exhilarating and transcendent experience I'll never forget.

Let me be clear - I am not one of those fans who will unequivocally hail everything U2 does as extraordinary. Contrary to most reviews I have read, I found the Zoo TV shows of the early 90s (I went to 2) somewhat lacking. The "it" factor that many mention as a key ingredient to a great U2 show just wasn't there for me. The Zooropa and Pop experiments left me a little cold (although I am appreciating Pop a little more as I revisited the album in preparation for this tour). As good as the last two albums are (and they are very, very good), I don't think they measure up to some of U2's best work in the 80s. My point being, I bring a devoted, though critical, eye to a U2 concert...

... and, at first, I was worried. Kings of Leon got an absolutely flat reception from a 2/3 empty arena - including the ellipse. The crowd wasn't rude or booing, but there was simply zero interest as far as I could tell. When KOL finished their set around 8:10, the arena was still more empty than full, and I have to admit I was worried that maybe some sort of insidious ticketing mistake had left vast blocks of tickets unaccounted for. But, of course, those worries were put to rest as every seat in the arena slowly filled up (although, as other reviewers have noted, the ellipse looked a little sparse).

The night before, about 4,000 lucky fans joined U2 in a video shoot for City of Blinding Lights. The remainder of that shoot (probably for full audience shots) was completed tonight. Perhaps the presence of those cameras got the crowd in an extra frenzied state of mind, because when Bono, Adam, Larry and the Edge took the stage, the place went absolutely ballistic, and the intensity did not let up until near the end when I think people were exhausted from all the singing, chanting, screaming, arm waving and pogoing. In any event, the "it" factor was there tonight. I have read reviews of earlier Vertigo concerts stating that whole sections of seats would be sitting during various stages of the show... that did not happen tonight. I know, because I specifically looked at least a dozen times during the show. Sure, I saw the odd person or couple sitting down (there's going to be some of those at every show no matter how good), but let me be absolutely clear: well over 99% of the arenas was standing for the entire show.

From my vantage point (slightly to the left of the tip of the ellipse, 3-4 rows deep... though I left work to line up at 1pm and had hoped to be on the rail), I had an excellent view of the boys making extensive use of the ellipse. Adam made at least 3 complete round trips, and I think it may have been as many as 4. Bono was out wandering the catwalk every bit as much as he was in the Boston and Slane shows on DVD. Alas, Edge only made one trip during Zoo Station at the beginning of the first encore. Larry did his usual thing with Bono during Love and Peace. Also, a whole bunch of people were invited on stage... one girl who was brought onto the main stage and sat down next to Larry; four girls and a guy who were wearing "One" shirts in support of the One campaign - Bono was given one of the shirts and he slipped it on over his jacket; a girl who had a sign suggesting that she had recently freed herself from her wheelchair and "would Bono please dance" with her (during Mysterious Ways... amusing side note - Bono said it "pays to advertise" as he held the sign up to the audience and cameras); another girl who followed the formerly wheelchair bound girl in dancing with Bono (unfortunately the first girl didn't seem to be too mobile and her pants seemed to be falling down).

I won't go through the set list on a song by song basis because the list will be posted, and I'm sure others will do that. Let me just say that I loved the set list. Just the right amount of old and new with the appropriate anthems retained. Highlights for me included Elevation; Gloria; Running to Stand Still; Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own; Bad; Streets (as intense as ever); and 40.

I don't know if this show is going to be a DVD (I don't think so since I didn't see any crane cams or guys with steady cams on the ellipse), but whatever footage from this show that they do use is going to be a treat, because it was simply that good. As another speculated, maybe there will be enough footage for the upcoming Good Morning America segment. Or perhaps more exhaustive filming will happen at the second show... like I said, I don't know, but I can't wait to see whatever falls out.

Final word: a salute and friendly hi to the folks who joined me in line... Mike (I look forward to the photos - it looks like you got some beauts); Ryan and Carla (who came in from Calgary and were rewarded with a trip inside the ellipse); and my son Craig (who, like his Dad, made U2 his first ever concert experience).

Anyway, cheers to all, and thanks U2 for a magical night.

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