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"One of the most valuable things about [Bono's] lyrics is that you can adapt them to any particular situation." — Larry



by Tom B.


Over the last 8 years or so, beginning with Radiohead at Liberty State Park in 2001 and the Curiosa Festival in like 2003 or 04, the live music business has really figured out how to make outdoor concerts sound great. That used to be the big tradeoff on seeing stadium shows - it was all spectacle, no sound. All volume and no nuance. But last night's show took outdoor sound to a new level. When the mirrorball lit up the audience during With or Without You, making the entire place look indoors, you couldn't have told you were at an outdoor show. The 'claw' contraption U2 employs for this tour is a marvel of sound engineering.

The main difference between this U2 concert and others I've attended, especially on the last couple of tours, is that they're playing the old songs "straight" which, for one, I'm really happy about. Over the years the band took something away from the potency of songs like Still haven't found ..., Sunday Bloody Sunday, With or Without You, and especially One with blander arrangements than what you'd hear on the albums. One, in particular, has an urgency on the album that it starting lacking live, to the point I kinda wished they would stop playing it. It became an anthem for all causes, all people, and sounded frankly a little wishy-washy. Not anymore. Bono's started singing the "Hear me coming Lord" coda at the end which is my absolute favorite thing U2 does live. So now, for whatever reason, they're playing all the old songs really well. The arrangements are stronger, more like the way they used to play them live. I was shocked at how good Sunday Bloody Sunday sounded. I still haven't found ... sounded great, and it generally sounds boring live. I think a lot of it has to do with Bono's voice, which has regained its form. It's such a far cry from the night we saw them in the front row in Albany in 2001, where he was fighting a cold, his voice completely gave out and the audience had to pick him up. Last night, he absolutely belted out every song. My voice gave out by the end of With or Without You. He does this 4-5 nights a week and he'll be 50 years old in 8 months. I am impressed.

One other thing I read in Bill Flanagan's book on the band is that U2, unlike almost all big groups, will let their opening bands utilize the full sound of the equipment. Most keep the sound and the bass down a little so that the headliner sounds better. They clearly gave Muse the full run of the equipment, and I think that's a really gentlemanly thing to do. And probably why they're able to attract such good openers. I've seen Big Audio Dynamite, Public Enemy, Garbage, No Doubt, Muse, and PJ Harvey open for U2. Mostly pretty good bands, I'd say.



So, some highlights ...

The sound. WOW. Completely full and well mixed. That's the advantage to going the second night - the sound guys have it figured out.

80,000 people on their feet singing along, which is as close to a transcendent religious experience as I'll likely ever have. WTSHNN is the greatest live song ever.

Bono's voice

Until the End of the World, Ultraviolet, Sunday Bloody Sunday, the dance remix version of "If I don't go Crazy"

Playing the old songs really well. Great setlist too - mixed it up, kept me surprised.

Sneaking down 25 rows to get a much better experience. We initially were under the overhang which really muffled the sound - and there the little shitty speakers on the ceiling drown out the real sound. Moving down was like taking cotton out of your ears. Thanks to whomever decided not to sit in their 2 aisle seats in row 12!

It's all but confirmed they are playing baseball stadiums in 2010, and I guarantee we'll be going to another show.

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