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You hold onto religion, you know, rules, regulations, traditions. I think what God is interested in is people's hearts, and that's hard enough. -- Bono, 2002

by Blair

The long day beneath the dessert sky was simply beautiful. It started with controversy at 9:00 a.m. as groups of fans argued with arena management about line order, but ended with the joy of 40. U2 concerts are enjoyed on many different levels. I think especially for many fans who have been in the fold for some time, they expect more than entertainment- some sort of fulfillment or connection- to something bigger than themselves. At least I do, and last night I wasn't disappointed. By now, all of you who are reading this will have known the "set-list" and how wonderfully all the songs were excuted. it wasn't perfect, but that's ok. For me, it was most importantly about being with my best friend of 25 plus years, meeting new people, reminiscing and enjoying the most significant band of our era. And having a good time all through out.

I was brought to tears during "Miracle Drug" when Bono dedicated the song to our Medical professionals and the fight to save life, knowing that my own son was a miracle of modern medicine. He also shared the familiar story of his meeting with the Pope which was very appropriate and touching. "Sometimes, You Can't Make it On Your Own" followed. A fan handed bono a picture of him (Bono) and his father. Bono cherished it, sung to it (his father) and then folded it up and gingerly put it in his back pocket. My friend mentioned how this song reminded him of his recently deceased father and I just wept.

The night was a little longer than most two-hour U2 concerts and it was nice to get two encores. The '40' ending was perfect and such a treat to many of us who thought that finale was retired almost 20 years ago. Many of us left hugging people we had just met and again it was confirmed in my mind that U2 is about all of us.

Having said that, I guess I should be somewhat hypocritical and become critical. First, it would be nice if venues and U2 management would formally and uniformly handle the way lines are handled outside the venue. There were multiple fans, with multiple lines all convening on the 9:00 a.m. officially recognized line time. This only created ill will between fans and management and isn't necessary if U2 INC. would formally work with venues to create a uniform way to gain access to the GA line, especially since they have done that internally to get into the ellipse.

Secondly, the only thing that I somewhat lamented on a purely critical basis was the fact that the stage was basically the same as the Elevation tour. Sure it had the drape of lights that was stunning and used sparingly, but there was basically no difference.

Finally, as I have read and now finally experienced the criticisms of the tour about some of the songs not being suitable for this reason or that, or the crowds not responding to this or that I have a theory as to why this is true. As I said earlier, U2 and the concert experience in many ways transcends the quality of production and whether this or that song is sung. It is for many of us, a celebration of a bond that goes beyond the music. However, many have noted that the crowd didn't connect with the newer tunes. I think that it is directly related to the fact that although the new album has received mixed reviews, I think many would concur that the album itself and whatever new views or ideas it presents in song, isn't strong enough to carry the entire set. That's why the set list feels somewhat disconnected. Each of the last tours going all the way back to the War tour have presented a fresh new take on what U2 is and what they want to say and how they want to say it. The feel of the desert and America in Joshua Tree, the feel of a crumbling Europe and the nihilistic breakdown of Achtung Baby, the experimentation and bravado of Pop and the return of the stripped down, humbled honesty of Elevation. Each tour had a feel; the albums carried the flavor and feel of the experience. This was somewhat diminished last night and I'm afraid for much of the first leg of the tour. The new songs from the album did come off wonderfully. However they didn't dictate the direction of the concert, they were mere highlights of the new album. You could really divide the concert into mini sets each being connected to the newer songs. There is a "Boy" set, a "Achtung" set a "Songs of War (including Bullet the Blue Sky)" set and finally to end the night the "God" set. The songs from Atomic Bomb were used as glue to hold the past together, but not really a new direction from the last album.

On to Denver...

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