Tuesday, 25 August 2009

More than pleasantly surprised by U2

I saw U2 at the weekend, on the last date of the European leg of their 360° tour. I have to be honest, I was prepared to be a little disappointed. I'd read mixed reviews of the show, and I wondered how material from No Line On The Horizon would stand up live next to older, more familiar tracks. As one dear friend memorably put it, I wondered if U2 were about to "jump the shark".

I needn't have worried.

On a warm Cardiff night, I had three genuine goosebump-inducing moments - take a look at the setlist and see if you can guess which three songs had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck?*

And for a show of such size, with such an enormous crowd, the band's 360° set-up really works, especially with the giant (and mind-boggling) circular screen that hangs above the stage from a giant tetrapod. We were sat (yes, sat! Not standing for hours as close to the stage as we could, but sat) in the first tier of Cardiff's mightily impressive Millennium Stadium... and still we had a brilliant view, as Bono et al laid out a varied set for an enthusiastic crowd. And, for the most part, the newer material held it's own (City of Blinding Lights being a slight exception).

Yes, there was Bono's usual ego, as giant as the stadium, but surely that's what you need to stand up and sing your heart out in front of 70,000 people, however much they love you. And yes, there were the usual socio-political messages, and a bit of self-righteousness thrown in, but when the causes are as worthy as these, that's no bad thing, is it?

U2 in 360 degrees then... way better than expected, and the first time I've had goosebumps at a gig for I don't know how long. Yes, an immediate new entry in the oft-discussed but (as yet) unpublished Top 5 Gigs list...

* Okay, they were: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (intro'ed with a 70,000-strong singalong that drowned out even U2's PA), Sunday Bloody Sunday and With Or Without You...