U2 arrived at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night for the first night of an 8 show run. The lads from Dublin put on a show remarkable in its scope and creativity.
A large part of what made the show great was the creative stage setting. This has been true of U2 for years. The Vertigo tour featured a curtain of light surrounding the main stage that allowed some interesting effects. The 360 stadium tour had the giant “space spider “ with moveable screens that projected the band’s image to the farthest reaches of the upper deck. The current tour, scaled back to indoor arenas, is no less innovative. The stage setup has a main stage at one end of the arena, and a smaller stage in the pit connected by a walkway. This is not unusual in itself (the Stones having been doing it for years), but what is new is parallel screens above the walkway with another stage in between them. This allowed some amazing effects. On the song “Cedarwood Road” Bono appeared to be strolling up his childhood street as he sang. On “Song for Someone” he sang to an animated 18-year-old version of himself, writing a song to impress a girl (now his wife).
One part of the setup that did not live up the hype was the sound system. The placement of the speakers around the arena was supposed to allow greatly improved sound, but the improvement wasn’t evident to this listener.
Now for the music: U2 is a great live band. Is there a front man better than Bono? Maybe a younger Mick Jagger. He does have to get in his plugs for charity and righteousness, but he is engaging and a wonderful singer. Not sure about the new bleached blonde look, though. Then there’s The Edge. How many guitarists are as innovative in their use of effects as he is? He has invented a whole new palate of sounds which he uses to the benefit of the song.
The set combined a fair number of songs from the new album, Song s of Innocence, with a nice mix of hits and obscurities. Among the latter were the first live version of “October” in about 25 years, played on the small stage with only Edge on keyboards. Also on the small stage: Bono pulled a young woman from the audience to dance with the band during “Mysterious Ways”, then turned her into a camera man for “Elevation”.
The encore of “Beautiful Day”, Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion” leading into “Where the Streets Have No Name”, and “One”, closed the evening on a high note. Although the manner in which “Songs of Innocence” was distributed was controversial, the music is strong and fit in well with the older material. U2 remains a great band, and a great concert act.
The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
The Electric Co.
I Will Follow
Iris (Hold Me Close)
Song For Someone
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Raised By Wolves
Until The End of The World
Even Better Than The Real Thing
Every Breaking Wave
With Or Without You
City of Blinding Lights
Bullet The Blue Sky
Pride (In The Name of Love)
Where The Streets Have No Name
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