Went & saw U2 on Friday night (the other week… 14th, I think it was) out at the London Cathedral to Football: Wembley Stadium. I’d never been to a U2 gig before.
I think it’s fair to say that it was massively frigging impressive.
They’re not a band that I’ve ever been fanatical about, however they are of course – like Madonna, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, etc. – one of the “big acts” of my lifetime, and them playing 2 nights at Wembley Stadium gave me a 1 in 196,000 chance of being able ot tick this particular box. I had seen them at Live 8 (way back in 2005) initially acting as Paul McCartney’s backing band, but they only got out about 3 songs on that occasion, and we were miles back from the stage – this time we’d crept substantially further forward. And thanks to the near-pervy zoom on my Panasonic Lumix TZ5 the photos didn’t all suck!
The first part of the gig was a little nondescript as far as I was concerned – Dave later told me this was because they were mainly running through the new album, which he described as being a bit pants by their standards. All I could really think of (other than sniggering at the “no cameras allowed” sign at the entry doors, as the crowd twinkled away with myriad flashes) was Bill Bailey’s routine about a massive technical failure at a U2 gig:
Thankfully it was all visually brilliant enough to carry me through disinterest, and the wave of crowd worship seeded the great chamber with the feeling that irrespective of what happened (short of an Oasis-style cancellation) this was to be counted as an epic concert moment.
One of the things that impressed me most was the circular videoscreen which they had at the top of the stage. By the look of all the crossbracing on the back of it I was pretty certain that this was going to be a majorly non-standard piece of kit. Definitely not the sort of thing you’d get off the rack at Dixon’s.
Sure enough, the screen cantelevered out into a massive coneshaped structure panelled with little video lozenges, and all assembled thought: “Whoa.”
The second act of the gig was a whistlestop tour of some of their big numbers. But lets face it: a band of this profile doesn’t really have much in the way of “lesser-known” material, does it? It was lots of fun, punctuated occasionally by me wondering whereabouts the “second band under the stage” was that Paul the Dodgy Aussie had insisted was there.
I’ve no shame in saying that a bit of a shiver ran up my spine when they played “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” – Rattle & Hum being the first U2 album I ever really knew about, all the way back then in 1988.
After the obligatory couple of encores and the predictable bit of Bono’s political grandstanding (connected with the ongoing house arrest of Burmese democracy campainger Aung San Suu Kyi), the final final encore had Bono taking the stage wearing a suit bedecked with lasers, singing into a top-suspended mike, and the crowd going mental. I swear I thought he was gonna swing out over the audience on that thing.
No, you’re right: I haven’t really said much about the songs, because I don’t really know that many of them. Well I guess I do. Where the Streets Have No Name, One, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Mysterious Ways, With Or Without You, Pride In The Name Of Love… they were all in there. As I said, odd to think that you could go along having not paid much attention to a band for 20 years and yet still know most of the material they used in a gig.
Equally as impressive as the gig itself, I thought, was the way that Wembley Stadium can divest itself of a crowd of 88,000 people in such an orderly manner. Descending the ramp onto Olympic Way back toward the tube station the sight was verging on the Epic end of the scale – a massive sea of humanity stretching out into the distance… a distance in which you somehow knew that there was lots of argy-bargy and cramming taking place in a tube station, somewhere.
A splendid gig, which I enjoyed immensely – Flickr gallery round about here. Massive thanks to Minty & Siany for the patience and classy company, and to Dave for same + extra props for scoring the ticket in the first place, and being honest enough to not let me pay you for it twice.
Edit: Look, a setlist. I assume this is accurate.