U2–Live at Arena at Gwinnett

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U2 has been on my list of acts to see, but the price has always been high.  So, enter a U2 tour stop at Gwinnett, metro Atlanta’s rural option for a “big arena” show, and, well, they’re getting older  - I’m getting older – and it’s time to fork over the cash… literally a half year in advance.  Such begets front row tickets! (in the upper deck).

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Staging should be less a mystery to me than this concert was.  A giant screen runs the length, obviously connecting two stages – the main stage at the end of the arena, and a circular stage nearest my seat.  Obviously, the band members would travel “the bridge,” and the reflective screen in the middle kind of makes sense for people on the sides to view projections.  However, it’s a beast that divides the stage for those in the opposite end.  Solution:  It rises.  Duh.  That explains the many people who sere lined up at the sides expecting to see something more than the video show… obviously.

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So, we begin with images of Bono but no band in sight.  Then all the band, but no actual people. 

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The grand reveal:

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Further revealed.  My concert companion asked how much floor tickets were.  I don’t recall, but I’m no stranger to standing, and if I had known the design, the floor is definitely the place to be.

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The screen comes down, the drum set goes up, and we find the band at the end of the arena where generally expected.

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The screen also held sway in interludes of sorts, generally providing a visual for Bono’s concert motif, moving from innocence, to experience and back to innocence again, playing off the titles of their last two CDs.  The video board was imaginatively used and added a lot to the show, no less the effect for its unusual placement.

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In an intermission of sorts, we followed a comic version of our intrepid super-band, presented in classic Marvel style. It led finally to hand-off of the below:

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The band appeared on the circular “e” stage following this, for a better audience “experience.”  Or, it could be looked at more pragmatically, for a series of songs where Edge didn’t need his guitar pedals.  What followed was Bono singing to a special camera, where a graphical overlay of the devil was placed – it worked pretty well even in limited motion.

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So, the “e” stage.  Note how close the crowd was able to get – better than festivals and many smaller indoor venues.

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The concert was generally better, I thought, when the band played in proximity to each other – perhaps there was more energy, perhaps it was less scanning to figure out who was where.  Now, if, in addition the cleverly projected graphics projected from underneath the stage surface, if they might have designed a rotating stage as well… C’mon guys.  John Denver did it in the 70’s.

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What the heck, let’s add a disco ball.

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That’s the spectacle. On to the music.  Most notably, and surprising to me, was Bono’s voice, which sounded early 90’s – none of the occasional raspiness which appears in later recordings.

For song selection, I have to give the show a C+.  Giving a nod for turning the show into the equivalent of a concept album, I’d say it was all the wrong songs for all the right reasons.  Sure, they just did a tour last year celebrating The Joshua Tree, but there are those of us who don’t make it to every tour, or any of them.  To not have included any songs from the band’s centerpiece is subtracts a letter grade in and of itself, no matter how tired the songs may be to the band or some members of the audience.

The band played a generous setlist of 24 songs, but only nine of which I would have hoped to have heard if I could have drawn up my own list.  Some of the others were only vaguely familiar in that U2ish way.   Still, I was pleased for some of their very early work, particularly “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and the accompanying graphics show.

So, here’s where the songs came from:

Boy - 2
October - 1
War - 1
The Unforgettable Fire - 1
Joshua TreeZERO
Rattle and Hum - 1
Achtung Baby – 3
Zooropa - 0
Pop - 1
All That You Can’t Leave Behind - 2
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb - 2
No Line on the Horizon - 0
Songs of Innocence – 2
Songs of Experience – 8

I have to add that, while researching the above, I happily discovered that U2 did an album in 1995(!) under the pseudonym “The Passengers.”  It’s experimental, certainly, but there was more of it that appealed to me than No Line on the Horizon, for example.  (Try “Miss Sarajevo”)

As much as Bono has inserted himself on the world stage as a political mover and shaker, one can’t help but expect a dose of “We can do better.”  The political nod of this show mostly focused on women’s equality, which, having a daughter, I can’t argue.  That said, there were two statements that made me cringe:  1) Poverty is sexist and 2) No one is equal until all people are equal.   For either to be true, there are a number of assumptions that would have to be made, never mind contextual assertions that would require agreement to arrive at those conclusions.  If they’re posted to make people think, then, well done.

Elsewhere, Bono did a nice job of playing to the locals, with nods to Martin Luther King and a hint of REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” tacked onto “Vertigo.”  

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The encore was “interesting.”  The first song was “One,” certainly a very good song, setting up what I thought might be a Joshua Tree tune or “Mysterious Ways” or such for a grand finale.  Instead, the band closed with two songs off of their latest release, both of which fit the “concept” but which do not qualify as musically invigorating.  The show was artfully concluded, certainly, with Bono having lifted a light for all the world to see, as it goes.  And, with the house lights slow to turn back on – suggesting there might be a little extra coming… Sorry folks! The show is over.  

All things said, I greatly enjoyed the show, and if anything, I’m interested in reexploring a number of their older CDs which I had set aside in U2 overexposure back in the day. 

Setlist:

  • Love is All We Have Left
  • The Blackout
  • Lights of Home
  • I Will Follow
  • Gloria
  • Beautiful Day
  • The Ocean
  • Iris (Hold Me Close)
  • Cedarwood Road
  • Sunday Bloody Sunday
  • Until the End of the World
    Elevation
    Vertigo
  • Desire
  • Acrobat
  • You’re the Best Thing About Me
  • Staring at the Sun
  • Pride (In the Name of Love)
  • Get Out of Your Own Way
  • American Soul
  • City of Blinding Lights

Encore:

  • One
  • Love is Bigger than Anything in its Way
  • 13 (There is a Light)

1 comment :

  1. Spot on review. Then again, I am older and prefer the older albums. Glad to have seen it!

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