Wednesday, May 25, 2011

U2 Returns to America With a Mile High Performance -- Concert Review

Photo Credit: John Leyba, Denver Post
Concert Review

with The Fray
Invesco Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
May 21, 2011

In catching U2 at Denver's Invesco Field on Saturday--as part of an excursion to visit a recently transplanted friend--I have now had the pleasure of seeing them live 14 times over the course of 25 years (with tickets to see them on their return to Chicago on July 5).

The last time I saw them--twice in September 2009 at Soldier Field, the kickoff shows of their still-running, most lucrative ever (by anyone) U2 360 tour--the gigs did not rank in the upper echelon of those I'd seen by Bono, the Edge, Adam and Larry.

Touring with the four-legged behemoth known as "The Claw" as their stage set, back then the legendary band seemed a bit dwarfed by their creation and were beset by pacing & technical glitches tied to lighting & video cues.

With the Denver show being the 89th of their current tour--which saw last summer's U.S. leg postponed after Bono suffered a back injury--the band has had plenty of time to get comfortable with their stage, props, lighting/video cues and setlists.

Thus, U2's first performance on U.S. soil since 2009 felt considerably better than their tour-opening gigs, and the quality of the music and overall production more than fulfilled the $35 paid for nosebleed seats (face value at the box office on the night of the show).

And while I, as a persnickety curmudgeon still found a few flaws, the three U2 newbies who joined me were completely wowed by the band's performance, including considerably strident social activism (such as celebrating the recent release of Burmese dissident Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whose long-term imprisonment the band decried earlier on tour).

It is about time the band wrote some great new songs, as I put only a handful over the last 20 years in that category (Beautiful Day, Vertigo, Walk On and Elevation, all played). So every U2 show I see pretty much features the same highlights (Sunday Bloody Sunday, Where the Streets Have No Name, With Or Without You, etc., and I was quite glad that Pride (In the Name of Love) was played, as it's often been omitted on the 360 Tour).

I don't suppose Bono and the boys will see this by the time they reach Chicago, but if they do, I ask them to remember some great songs they seem to have long ago forgotten, such as A Sort of Homecoming, Exit, Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses and In God's Country. And I know its kitschiness helps justify the mammoth stage set, but the disco version of I Know I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight continues to be a waste of 5 minutes that could be way better utilized, while Moment of Surrendur (also off 2009's No Line on the Horizon) is a bit too long and languid to serve as a show closer.

That said, All I Want Is You, Stay (Faraway So Close), Miss Sarajevo and I Will Follow were nice inclusions, so the setlist was pretty satisfying, even if the pacing remains a bit disjointed at times.

In sum, there are few artists who do a big show better than U2 and the one I saw at a Mile High altitude was pretty damn great. On the night the world was supposed to end, this wouldn't have been a bad note to go out on. But that doesn't mean I not hoping for some first-rate new material and the rediscovery of some other first-rate old material to elevate U2 to even higher heights.


Even Better Than The Real Thing
I Will Follow
Get On Your Boots
Mysterious Ways
Until The End Of The World
All I Want Is You
Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
Beautiful Day
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Miss Sarajevo
City Of Blinding Lights
I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Walk On

Encore 1:
Where The Streets Have No Name

Encore 2:
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
With Or Without You
Moment of Surrender

(YouTube clip of Where The Streets Have No Name at Invesco Field, Denver. Not shot or uploaded by me.)

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