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I'm Irish. I'm a rock star here. I'm not white either. The Irish are kind of -- pinkish. Underdone.-- Bono, 2004


Supergroup U2 delivers in Glendale

- October 21, 2009

by Larry Rodgers

Irish supergroup U2 used the biggest stage in rock to try to connect with tens of thousands of fans at University of Phoenix Stadium during the band's stop in Glendale, no matter which zip code they were sitting in.

"We built this spaceship to get closer to you," singer-activist Bono told the enthusiastic crowd Tuesday, Oct. 20. "We were looking for intimacy on a grand scale."

The impressive scale of U2's 360 Degree tour was accomplished with a four-legged stage dominating most of the south end of the stadium. The structure's 150-foot pinnacle nearly touched the edge of the stadium's open roof.

A cylindrical video screen that opened to 14,000 square feet made images of Bono, guitarist the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. was visible in all corners of the stadium. A massive sound system blasted the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band's music into stadium hallways and restrooms.

As for intimacy, that probably depended on where fans, who spanned ages 10 to 70 and most ethnic backgrounds, sat for the concert, which ran nearly 2 1/2 hours.

Although the global trek is billed as a 360-degree experience, it really should be called the "270 Tour," because one quarter of the stage was backed into the end of the stadium, with no seats and minimal standing room behind it. That left fans on the far side of the stadium nearly 100 yards away from the stage.

Production director Jake Berry of Scottsdale said that set-up was needed to accommodate equipment and entry points for the stage, but as the well-paced show unfolded, one couldn't help but wonder how different things might have been had the stage actually been placed in the middle of the stadium.

Bono & Co. are no strangers to big stages. They routinely play stadiums in Europe, and that made their approach in Glendale seem somewhat low-key.

The circular main stage was surrounded by a runway accessed by steel bridges that moved. The space in between held about 2,400 standing fans. All the band members occasionally made their way onto the runway during the show. However, except for Bono, it seemed that they underutilized the tool for getting closer to their fans in such a cavernous setting.

At 49, Bono remains one of rock's most magnetic performers. It was still impressive to watch him stand at the edge of the stage and sing to a sea of outstretched hands during such songs as an epic take on "Magnificent," from the band's latest CD, "No Line on the Horizon."

During an extra-funky version of "Mysterious Ways," courtesy of the Edge's wah-wah-like guitar work, Bono circled the outer ring, imploring the crowd to "C'mon!" The guitarist, wearing his trademark wool cap and a plaid shirt, made his own way around the runway to show off some strong, syncopated work on the upbeat "Beautiful Day."

The band showed full confidence in its latest album, which received mixed reviews, by opening with three songs from the CD.

"Breathe" featured semirapping by Bono and a shimmering guitar lead by the Edge. "Get on Your Boots" let the rhythm section of Clayton and Mullen strut its stuff, and "Magnificent" allowed Bono to proclaim (as if he needed to), "I was born to sing to you."

But the group also packed plenty of older, stadium-worthy anthems into its set, including "Where the Streets Have No Name," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "With or Without You" and "Elevation."

The wide-ranging appeal of U2 was clear during "Where the Streets Have No Name," as nearly everyone, from the hippest hipsters to baby-boomer couples swayed and danced.

Perhaps answering those who question whether the group should dial back its world-conquering ways after three decades, Bono remarked, "We're not done yet," before U2 let the audience sing the entire first verse to another anthem, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

The band pushed into new territory with a remixed version of recent single "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" that found Mullen circling the outer stage, playing an African-style drum with his hands.

As he has done in recent tours, Bono invited some young fans onstage to share the spotlight, but the elevated stages didn't allow for much other close interaction with the bulk of concertgoers.

The show delivered its expected moments of social commentary, the strongest of which was an impassioned video introduction to "One" by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu.

Late in the show, Bono emphasized that the global causes he and U2 champion, including initiatives to fight poverty, AIDS and malaria and education, know no political bounds. He then acknowledged members of the family of U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona who were attending the concert (as was boxing legend and Valley resident Muhammad Ali).

The band's latest Big Cause is demanding freedom for jailed Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi. As the group played the inspirational "Walk On," scores of what Bono called "volunteers" came out to occupy the entire outer stage as they held up masks of the prisoner's face.

Even in the world of U2, that sequence seemed a bit over the top.

The show delivered pretty much what most fans expect of this iconic band. But despite the spectacle of the massive stage and video set-up, the stadium setting couldn't help but dilute some of U2's impact.

Perhaps fearing a traffic jam on a work night, hundreds of fans steadily streamed out of the stadium during U2's three-song encore. (Local promoter Live Nation Southwest did not provide a crowd count, but there appeared to be at least 50,000 fans in attendance - an impressive number, but not a sellout.)

The platinum-selling hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas, spotlighting Fergie and will.i.am, opened the show and rose to the challenge of engaging U2's fans.

Highlights included the 11-year-old group's upcoming single, "Meet Me Halfway," with soaring vocals by Fergie, and another new tune, the old-school-rock-flavored "Now Generation."

The group, which includes MCs apl.de.ap and Taboo, got most of the crowd on its feet with a recent hit, the pulsating "Boom Boom Pow," and a classic, "Where Is the Love?"

(c) Arizona Central, 2009.

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