Review: U2 at the Rose Garden, Portland, Dec. 19, 2005*

December 21, 2005


By Matthew Anderson
2005.12

"Goodbye, goodbye, good-bye, I’m at a place called Vertigo."

Bono altered the lyrics to the chart-topping single and tour namesake for the final show of the third leg of the Vertigo Tour that steamed up an icy cold Portland and helped thaw out those in the general admission line that were starting to lose all feeling in their appendages after camping out as early as 9:30 the night before.

It was the ultimate in bittersweet, an exciting—and appropriate—way to kick off the last show before the band takes an extended tour break, yet so sad to think the guys won’t be back in town any time soon.

The show started off as any another with the band ready and playful, and, needless to say, the crowd pumped up as well. It was a mutual love fest that transcended the thousand "thank you" signs fans had distributed amongst themselves and Bono returning the pleasantries, "No, thank you."

Christmas, going home, wrapping up the tour (for now) … those were the sources of material for Bono’s typical moments of improvisation. The man was indeed in fine form.

After a beautiful rendition of "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For" that smoothly segued into a snippet of "In a Little While," Bono turned the attention back on the audience down in front, picking out girls (all the while acknowledging he was focusing only on the girls) and asking how many shows they’d been to.

The numbers were staggering:

24 …

28 …

42 …

It was an opportunity for Bono to wax comical, saying he was starting to feel like Oprah by turning the microphone on one audience member after another, then asking, somewhat rhetorically, "Now when did you first start having these feelings?"

Right through the end of the show, there was an intimacy and sense of spontaneity that’s highly unusual for such a massive production. Even the tour crew got their moment in the spotlight, taking to the ellipse prior to the band’s final encore, receiving a round of applause from the sold-out arena and the band as well.

The spontaneity was at its finest when U2 cranked out a marvelous take on The Beatles’ "Help!" and Bono, so inspired, kept the others on stage for a brilliant impromptu performance. He started out by saying he had been thinking about John Lennon a lot lately (particularly in light of the recent 25th anniversary of his murder) and the band took the opportunity to rip out a fantastically rockin’ "Instant Karma," complete with bass solo supplied by Adam Clayton.

Sans any of the gloss and glitz of Willie Williams’s masterful staging and lighting designs, it was as if the band had simply stepped back inside Larry Mullen’s garage to play a song —and play it loud enough to keep their parental units on edge.

It was particularly striking because on previous tours the band always snuck in a cover song or two; on the Vertigo tour that "flair" has been mostly limited to a few bars of The Clash’s "Rock the Casbah" and maybe a few bars from one or two other ditties.

Having dusted off "Miss Sarajevo," one of the gems tucked away on the Passengers album, during the summer European leg, it was all the more stunning how passionately Bono belted out the Italian lyrics like a true opera star after so many nights of maxing out the vocal chords. Can it actually be said, at the end of the tour’s third leg, Bono’s voice is in the best shape yet? It was a truly phenomenal performance of a very demanding song, particularly when Luciano Pavarotti is not available.

Following "One," Bono began his lengthy laundry list of thank yous, including everybody from "Fr. Paul Allen," who lent them "the hall" for the night, to the Pope. But this is Bono, a man who gets around, leading the world’s biggest band on a magnificent tour through a good portion of the northern hemisphere.

There were a lot of people to thank and from then on, through two encores, Bono would take more opportunities to thank more people. Maybe you had to be there to appreciate it, but those chuckles as he turned to The Edge and Adam and Larry, as more names continued to pop into his hand, were the chuckles of a man with a lot on his mind, and happily so.

Of course, women are always on the mind, particularly during "Mysterious Ways" and "With or Without You." It was only fitting, then, that those two durable staples would be accompanied on the final show by not just one honey baby, but two—twins. Plucked from the crowd and brought on stage, they were the final accoutrements necessary for a delectable Bono sandwich.

When tickets went on sale way back in March, no doubt there were those anticipating some big "revelation" at the tour’s last stop. But, as the weeks leading up to the show confirmed, this wasn’t the end of the tour, just the end of the second North American leg, the third leg of the tour, and more people will be feeling the effects of Vertigo next year, when the band goes (finally) Down Under and beyond.

The happiest thought upon leaving the arena was that, while the band may be done with North America for now, there’s nothing more goose bump inducing than to hear Bono say, "We’re just getting started."

Yeah, they’re all multi-multi-millionaires and, as Bono promises, they’re living life as large as they can. Bless ‘em all, because in living large they continue to inspire their fans to dream up the kind of world they want to live, dream out loud, and in high volume.

Fan Perspective: My Five Favorite Opening Songs at a U2 Show*

December 19, 2005

By Greg Soria
2005.12

What should an opening song at a concert do? Should it grab you and shake you from your seat? Should it gently draw you in and weave its way into your subconscious? Can it do both? The opening song must capture and captivate you while hinting at what lies ahead for the evening you are about to spend with the band. A U2 show really is an experience unlike any concert—ask any of the millions who have been served over the years. A key ingredient to a U2 show is the opening song. In a matter of two hours your senses will be assaulted with visual effects, the sheer power of U2′s music and a sense that the audience and the band are one and the opening song is always key to starting everything on the right track.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing U2 in concert 14 times over the last 20 years. Each tour has used a single, unique song to open that tours shows, and in the case of the Vertigo Tours three songs have been rotated as the show opener. Some songs have worked better than others in the opening slot. Take for instance "Zoo Station," a great opener that set the mood for the ZooTV tour by assaulting our senses with both a new sound for the band and wild visions. Whereas opening an Unforgettable Fire tour show in Australia, with "MLK" was disastrous, as reported by Pimm Jal de la Parra in his book "U2 Live: A Concert Documentary," as the pent-up crowd whistle and jeered throughout the quiet, moody song. Some openers I still have trouble hearing elsewhere in the set, such as "Where the Streets Have no Name," a song I still associate with seeing the band walk onto the stage during the synthesizer opening of the Joshua Tree Tour.

So what are the best opening songs U2 has used on tour?

Some bands hit you head on with an up-tempo, in-your-face opener with the amps cranked up to 11. Others will open with a soft, moody piece from which it builds the set list into their high-powered songs. U2, for the most part, have always prescribed to the former, opening with a fast-paced song to immediately elevate its audience. This successful formula has allowed U2 to attain the status of being a legendary live band by both fans and critics. You can’t really go wrong with a show that opens with a musical bang.

With a quarter century of material under its awarded belt, U2 has an extensive library of songs to choose from to open its shows. Here are five songs I feel did the best job of priming the audience for the rest of the show over the years.

"11 O’Clock Tick Tock"
The first of the memorable openers, and maybe my all-time favorite opening song, is the Unforgettable Fire Tour version of "11 O’Clock Tick Tock." The song is actually U2′s first single released on Island Records in May of 1980. Prior to the "Unforgettable Fire" album and tour, the song had rarely been heard in the United States but with the release of the "Under a Blood Red Sky" video and album it gained a new audience. The song had actually been linked as a co-opener during the Boy Tour with "The Ocean" so this was not its first time at the top of the set list. A mid-tempo rocker that on record sounds a little muddled, but when played live brings out the urgency of the lyrics and color of the musical accompaniment.

I remember waiting to see band for the first time in Los Angeles in March 1985 and as soon as Edge hit the opening notes of this song I felt like I was having an out of body experience. Even though the song is mid-tempo, the reaction it received from the crowd was stunning. The crowd rose as one and remained that way for two hours until well after the concert ended. At the time "11 O’Clock Tick Tock" was well known among U2′s more ardent fan base but among casual fans it was still unknown, however the audience sang it like it was "I Will Follow" or "Sunday Bloody Sunday." It seems strange to think of this as a fist pumping song, but as Edge’s guitar solo closes the song that is exactly what you get—15 to 20,000 U2 fans thrusting their hands in the air at once.

"Where the Streets Have no Name"
"Where the Streets Have no Name" is an epic song that opened both "The Joshua Tree" album and tour and a lot of shows during the Australian Lovetown Tour in the late ’80s. This song evokes the feeling of embarking on a journey through the music of U2, with Bono’s lyrics painting the picture of the desert and the eternal struggle to find one’s self, perfect for the album the band was touring. The Joshua Tree Tour shows took you to the deserts of Ethiopia, Africa, the killing fields of El Salvador, the back alleys of Dublin and then to the deserts in America.

"Streets" with its slow synthesizer opening, allowed the band to use a slow, moody musical build up which then kicked into a high-powered rocker. This in turn kicked the show into high gear right off the bat. The lyrics help cement the connection between the band and its audience with the line "and when I go there, I go there with you" again achieving what U2 strives for in its shows—making the band and audience one.

The memory that sticks out for me with this particular opening song, is being at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in April 1987 and seeing the houselights go down and the stage slowly light up as each member of U2 ascended the stairwell to the stage and then made their way to their spot on the stage floor. The build-up was incredible and the fan response was the loudest I’ve ever heard for any band in concert. By the time Bono got to center stage and grabbed the microphone the crowd noise was so loud my eardrums began to rattle. Once Bono began singing it was a release of pent up energy that didn’t dissipate until I fell asleep much later that evening.

"Gloria"
Opening a show with a religious flavored song would be a death knell for most secular bands, fortunately U2 can talk about God, politics and sex without contradicting itself. This is a fine line for any band to walk and U2 pulls it off without sounding too preachy or being too cute by never calling out to God, but leaving the subject of "Gloria" open for interpretation. Opening with "Gloria" for the October Tour and the first half of the War Tour worked very well, allowing the band to achieve lift off with its audience and setting an energetic tone for the show.

Edge’s urgent guitar riff and Bono’s soaring vocal mixed with the thumping drive of Adam Clayton’s bass and Larry Mullen Jr.’s drums makes for an explosive beginning to any U2 show. The band is able to convey feelings of self doubt and the struggle to stand on your own two feet which allows the audience to, once again, feel a connection to the band.

Bono’s call of "hey, hey" gives the audience a chance to respond back and be part of the song. The crowd sings along was immortalized on the "Under a Blood Red Sky" video, and was a staple of the song until the band stopped playing it regularly on the Lovetown Tour. It has recently been added to some of the Vertigo Tour shows and is still a favorite of mine.

"Zoo Station"
Now for the pomp and circumstance of ZooTV. Widely considered by fans and critics to be one of the most incredible tour spectaculars to have ever woven its way across the globe, ZooTV was all about commercialism and chaos, war and television, money and religion. It was a little bit of everything multimedia wrapped up in one, and what better song to open it up than "Zoo Station"?

"Zoo Station" is a travelogue of the sights and sounds of U2′s stay in Berlin in 1990 during the initial sessions for what became "Achtung Baby." With its distorted guitar introduction, the pulse of the rhythm section and Bono painting lyric images of the Zoo Banhoff train station in Berlin, the industrial sound of Edge’s guitar and Larry’s drums brings a sense of jumping on a slow-moving train that takes you on a chaotic journey through out the city of Berlin, and the lyrics hint at the band’s difficulty in recording "Achtung Baby."

Actually when it comes right down to it, was it the song I enjoyed so much or was it the screens and images that made the opening so incredible? The white noise of TV interference which rumbled across the screen after the opening statement of "We Will Rock You" by then-President George Bush care of the Emergency Broadcast Network, or the montage which aired before the Zooropa shows, made for a great effect whenever Edge’s guitar rumbled out the opening notes. The song takes the band and its audience somewhere they’ve never been before, a place that the U2 audience never imagined they could go, and then gently sets them down to be assaulted by the next song. After hearing "Zoo Station" on the Vertigo Tour, I realized the sights of ZooTV were just compliments to the sound of the song itself.

"Elevation"
"Elevation" works as well as any opening song I’ve ever seen and heard by any band. The manner in which the song was presented live on the Elevation Tour was brilliant—the band entered the stage with the house lights on while the opening sequence is played. This may have been U2′s most effective ploy to bring the audience into the show to date, especially after the irony of the ZooTV and PopMart Tours. Before the song even begins each member takes his place on the stage and is able to look the audience in the eye.

Lyrically this is not U2′s deepest song but even U2′s trash is another band’s treasure. The high energy of the "woo hoos" and the driving, distorted guitar grabs the audience and picks each member off their feet, shaking them into hysteria. The U2 audience was given some daylight along with "Beautiful Day" before the set list delved into the darker subjects like "Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get out Of," a song that confronted the suicide of INXS singer Michael Hutchence.

Whenever I think of this song live I think back to the first time I saw the Elevation Tour Boston DVD. I first saw the song on NBC during the halftime of the NBA Finals in June 2001. It was being broadcast on the same night as the concert, and it was really inspiring to see and hear U2 at the top of its game on national TV in the states. I also remember Bono’s voice being just a bit hoarse as he sang "a star, lit up like a cigar, strung out like guitar." For some reason it sounded better the way he sang that line on that night. My opinion is this song might be the best song U2 has ever used to open a show.

Here we have a collection of five songs that, in my opinion, are the best songs U2 have used to open its concerts with on various tours. Each song picks the crowd off its seats and infuses it with an energy that lasts the whole show. Each song sets the tone for the set list of songs to follow and creates the incredible atmosphere and excitement that is a U2 concert.

Review: U2 at the Qwest Center, Omaha, Dec. 15, 2005*

December 18, 2005

By Roland Schulte
2005.12

Thursday-night entertainment can be hard to come by in the Midwest so when U2 and opening act Kanye West visited Omaha on December 15th, the evening had all the ingredients needed to produce the best Thursday ever recorded. To say the least, the show delivered from beginning to end.

Right off the bat, the individual award for best time ever may be awarded to one particular violin player belonging to the Grammy-nominated West’s string section. The string section was tough to hear over his background tracks (which, by the way, are very un-string-section-like) but this girl made up for it with pure energy. It was like the angels of the best Soul Train dancers had taken over her body, and she was trying to out-do them, while playing a violin the whole time. That’s what she did. This girl could (and should) sell tickets to her own show.

Violin players notwithstanding, West’s opening set was among the best openers for a U2 show to date. I recall U2 shows in the ’90s where other controversial acts like Public Enemy and the Rage Against the Machine filled the first slot. They were good, and revved everyone up per their job description, but they did not leave the same impression that Kanye West did. Kind of like a solo hip-hop version of U2—musical depth, spiritual depth, uncontrollable cool and the ability to move crowds of any shape and size.

Running a close second behind the violin player for best time ever had to be the girls in the audience pulled on stage by Bono during U2′s set. The first girl plucked from the crowd was a young girl, Haley, brought onstage during "Sunday Bloody Sunday,” somewhere in the middle of the first set. She became the stand-in recipient of the legendary song for her generation, and even her country. "This is your song now,” said Bono, quite the honor at such a young age. Another girl (name unknown because I couldn’t hear it over screaming fans) was brought onstage to dance during "Mysterious Ways" and "With or Without You.” She said it was her birthday to boot. That’s got to rank up there for best birthday ever.

The members U2 seemed to be having a good time in the Midwest themselves, and were a bit more loose than some recent Vertigo shows I took in around the neighborhood (I have a big neighborhood that includes Chicago, Milwaukee and now Omaha). Bono took time during the evening to play a bit with the photographers, and was more conversational than usual. Conversation topics included the cold weather, Christmas party plans and the lack of Guinness in the Omaha area. Perhaps being in Warren Buffet’s neighborhood made him more relaxed.

Highlights of U2′s set included the rare addition of "Crumbs From Your Table.” Bono and Co. gracefully sailed right through this night’s rendition, despite leaving out some of the lyrics. I don’t know that many people noticed the omission, including the band itself. Another highlight was, as always, an unforgettable delivery of "Where the Streets Have no Name.” Goosebumps were felt all around. Shortly thereafter, "Until the End of the World" rounded out what could be (arguably) considered a U2 fanatic’s dream set. Speaking of rounding out, Bono and Edge can make a person dizzy trying if they try to watch them run around the ellipse from the inside.

I have to submit my own honorable mention bid for best time ever for a Midwest Thursday. For whatever reason, early in the evening, one of the U2 working crew inexplicably offered me a wristband for the ellipse. Then this same guy lets me take my digital camera into the ellipse, where one of the professional photographers showed me how my digital camera was actually supposed to be operated. Mr. Photographer, wherever you are, thanks for the help. It worked.

Besides grabbing a few great photos, I got to experience a U2 show up close, which I hadn’t had a chance to do before. Much has already been chronicled about the experience of a U2 show, especially up close, so I’ll detour from trying to convey the feeling here. Other than to say you have to experience the show for yourself. It’s like going to Disney World for the first time and all the good rides are open.

Somewhere in the middle of the Best Thursday Ever, Bono mentioned that U2 was sticking around Omaha for its Christmas party on Friday. I hope the Christmas celebration, and everyone else’s, feels half as good as West’s violin player felt that night.

Review: U2 at the Savvis Center, St. Louis, Dec. 14, 2005*

December 16, 2005

By Chrissi Blaesing
2005.12

I have a confession to make—up until Dec. 14th at the Savvis Center in St. Louis, I’d never experienced general admission at a U2 show.

I have had the pleasure of seeing U2 from some really great seats and I’ve had a really great time at all of those shows but I can assuredly say that seats are a pale comparison to the energy and sound that surround you in the GA floor area. As I type this I’m exhausted beyond the capacity for rational thought, possibly dehydrated, the clothes I wore to camp out in the GA line will have to be burned and I’m pretty sure I broke a toe sometime Wednesday night and yet, I can’t remember having a better time. Being on the rail inside the ellipse is absolutely the best experience a U2 fan can have during the Vertigo Tour. For those who have not had this experience, it’s like watching a U2 concert on DVD, only you’re right there, a poor analogy but that’s the best I can come up with at the moment.

I can’t adequately give a review of this show without mentioning the superb opening performance by rap wunderkind Kanye West. The crowd received an early treat of Bono unexpectedly introducing West’s appearance, his debut on the Vertigo tour (he’s since been drafted to open for U2 on its 2006 through Australia and New Zealand). Clad in his usual jeans, hoodie and straw cowboy hat, Bono made the case for the supposedly odd match up of U2 and West. Bono stated that both U2 and West were both looking for something different from music and that U2 was honored to share the same bill with him. The speech was an unspoken challenge to fans who’ve openly questioned and criticized U2′s decision to have the Grammy Award-winning West as an opening act in the Heartland. As Bono exited the stage, he and West embraced.

While not wanting to take anything away from U2′s previous opening acts on the Vertigo Tour, I can say without a doubt that West is my personal favorite. West himself states that, as a rule, he doesn’t generally get nervous before a show but prior to taking the stage he was nervous for the first time in a year and a half. As he gradually warmed to the audience, West stated that appearing in front of the U2 audience wasn’t nearly as bad as he’d expected it to be. The highlights of the set were of course mainstream hits such as the powerful "Jesus Walks" and the current chart topping single "Gold Digger," the latter of which had U2 fans chanting along with West, "We want prenup." I can’t speak for the rest of the arena, but those close to the rail in the ellipse did a great job of supporting West, which wasn’t a hardship as West is an exceptionally talented performer. My one hope is that any U2 fans seeing the latter Vertigo shows will come with an open mind and just go along for the ride with West. That we get to see two phenomenally talented acts (albeit from quite different genres) should be seen as a true gift, not a cross-cultural imposition.

U2′s set list didn’t stray from the standard set of late but the lack of variety didn’t detract in any way from the show. At one point early on, Bono mentioned the internet with a playful jab at fans who can predict each song by asking where the mystery had gone nowadays. The band members all seemed to be in loose, fun, playful moods
for the receptive St. Louis audience. At another early point in the show drummer Larry Mullen Jr. fumbled one of his drumsticks but in a deft move caught the drumstick mid-air, remarkably never missing a beat. Instead of the usually mirthless scowl that accompanies Larry’s stage demeanor, he gamely laughed the incident off with bassist Adam Clayton who in turn continued to smirk about the indecent as he joined Bono towards the front. Larry continued to laugh, smile, and dare I say it, wink at the audience and his fellow band members throughout the night. "Beautiful Day" saw Bono snippeting West’s "Jesus Walks" at the end of the song. During "Love and Peace or Else" I was able to see a different perspective of the song live as I wasn’t able to focus on Bono and Larry’s interaction on the ellipse but rather was able to stare straight up at the Edge and Adam who stay on main stage to anchor the song and give it the lift off that I have taken for granted. At one point both the Edge and Adam were completely illuminated with bright white lights in front of me staring down at the front rail. I do believe that it’s possible I experienced a bit of transcendence, a feeling I’ll carry with me for quite a long time.

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" saw the prerequisite blindfolded Bono stumbling to find the microphone. The anxiety that Bono’s assistant must have been feeling as Bono slightly teetered in reaching for the microphone was almost palpable. Luckily Bono was able to find the microphone with no intervention. The song continued on with Bono finding a small boy from the ellipse to come on stage to shout the "no more" refrain of the song. The little one couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old but had a great stage presence and even surprised Bono at the end with an extra "no more" that had the singer looking positively tickled. Bono led the young boy off stage into bodyguard John Sampson’s arms who tried unsuccessfully to give the child to our little group of U2 fans—the horrified looks on our faces and the frantic pointing to the boy’s father had Sampson chuckling as he delivered the boy back safely.

I hadn’t heard "Miss Sarajevo" since early in the third leg and must say the improvement in the song is staggering. Bono’s vocals are truly something to marvel at. The singer’s voice has become both stronger and purer as the tour goes on. I have heard other fans talk about the experience of hearing "Where the Streets Have no Name" in the ellipse and I can now assist to it being a near religious experience—there’s a certain kind of otherworldliness that surrounds the song. It is a concert staple because it deserves to be. The end of the song had the entire arena roaring in approval and the band members removing their earpieces the accompanying sound was so loud.

"One" saw guitar tech Dallas Schoo handing Edge the new Music Rising Guitar that’s part of the initiative raising funds to replace the lost instruments and accessories of the musicians affected by the hurricanes that devastated the Gulf Coast earlier in the fall. The guitar itself is a beauty; pictures don’t do it any justice.

The guitarist doesn’t just play each song, he experiences them. The Edge was either observing the crowd with an amused smile on his face or deep within the song, his eyes closed and his foot stopping along to the beat. I can unabashedly call Edge a musical genius and was honored to be able to watch him perform the songs that mean so much to him at such a close range.

The first encore opened with fan favorite "Until the End of the World" and rather than the previous tour’s bullfight between Bono and Edge both musicians chased each other around the ellipse at full tilt twice and ended with Edge positioned behind Larry, Bono and Adam on either side of the front of the drum kit forming a kind of U2 triptych. It is in these instances where you can see the four band members interacting with each other that the band is at its strongest.

During "Mysterious Ways" Edge performed his special funky white boy dance to the delight of those standing in front of him. I’m sure that the guitarist would not like this assessment of his dance but it is quite possibly the cutest part of the entire show. The end of "Mysterious Ways" and the beginning of "With or Without You" saw Bono select a new dancing girl from the center of the ellipse who looked more stunned and embarrassed of the attention that Bono was giving her in front of her husband than
anything else.

The second encore started with Edge and Bono at the tip of the ellipse performing the first part of "Stuck in a Moment" acoustically with Larry and Adam joining in towards the end of the song. The band then rejoined on the main stage to perform the John Lennon classic "Instant Karma." As a rule I don’t generally like cover songs but this version was electric—from my vantage point both Edge and Larry were having a blast performing the song. Near the end of the song Bono snippeted "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" while interacting with Larry who was again uncharacteristically charming, smiling at laughing at Bono as he tried to direct Larry in closing the song. At the conclusion of "Karma" Bono walked over to Edge to shake his hand and give him a quick hug.

According to the show’s set list it appears the band decided to drop "All Because of You" and instead proceeded straight into "Yahweh" with a bit of a twist that had Bono
bringing a fan from around the tip of the ellipse to play piano for the song. The Edge ambled up to the piano to help the newest member of the band and offer support. Toward the end of the song Bono playfully chided the fan on the correct way to end the song (apparently it should sound like Christmas bells) and after a couple of attempts he got it right and Bono sang the end of the song again to close it out correctly. After big hugs from Edge and Bono the fan joyously leapt in the air making his way back to his spot. The traditional U2 concert ender "40" closed out the night with Larry being the last man standing on the now empty stage. After a quick smile and wink at the audience Larry descended from the stage and the house lights came on with the crowd still singing, "How long to sing this song?"

This is my last review for Vertigo 2005 and I can say I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. I think the main realization that I’ll come away with is that, although the band is the driving force, a U2 show is made up of much more. The U2 fans I met the night before the show and in the GA line are the type of fans that any band would be proud to have supporting them. The fan interaction, love and support the band receives during a show are essential and I’m grateful to be part of the U2 fan community. The other essential and overlooked part of the U2 show is the talented and dedicated Vertigo Tour crew. Without these dedicated people we as fans would not be able to have the wonderful experience that I had Wednesday night. Not only do they look out for the band, they really do look out for the fans as well and the performance is more special because of it. U2 in the studio may be a four-legged table but on tour it’s much greater than that with each group helping to carry the other.

I’m closing this review with the same lines that Bono used from Lennon’s "Happy Christmas (War is Over)." "So this is Christmas/And what have you done/Another year over/And a new one just begun." The answer is quite a lot.

Review: U2 at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo, Dec. 9, 2005*

December 12, 2005

By Maggie Gerrity
2005.12

Bono was playing a video game when he found out that John Lennon had been murdered on Dec. 8, 1980, just after U2′s show at now long-gone Stage One in Buffalo. Twenty-five years and one day later, U2 took the stage to a much larger crowd in Buffalo and, with Lennon’s memory in their minds, dazzled the capacity crowd.

Buffalo should’ve been nicknamed the City of Blinding Snow on Friday since a quick-moving storm snarled the travel plans of many fans. High winds made the streets look like a sandstorm at times, and the staff of the HSBC Arena thankfully decided early in the day to move the GA line inside. Even the band had a hard time reaching town in time for the show having left Boston several hours late because of the bad weather and reportedly only reached the arena during Institute’s opening set.

Friday’s show was my fourth and final one for the tour, and my third experience in GA. Yet again I wasn’t lucky enough to make it into the ellipse but I got a great spot on the rail on Adam’s side—my best spot all year. As the band launched into "City of Blinding Lights" and the confetti dropped, tears built in the corners of my eyes. I realized that this would be the last time that I’d see Bono greet the crowd at the tip of the catwalk and I could tell from his energy as he passed me and headed for the main stage that tonight’s show would be another thrilling performance.

What struck me most about Friday’s concert was how much fun the band seemed to have. It’s late in this leg of the tour and I worried that their energy level might be dropping but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Early in the show, the crowd hit giant balloons around the GA section. A gleeful smile flashed across Edge’s face when he saw one of the balloons and I couldn’t help but giggle, wondering if he thought it was a beach ball. During "Beautiful Day," Adam spotted a fan trying to take his picture, and he playfully leaned in to strike silly poses. He seemed at his best for the entire show, all smiles and swagger, lingering longer than usual on the catwalk during "Where the Streets Have no Name" and venturing back out during "Mysterious Ways." Even Larry had a smile for the crowd as he headed out onto the catwalk for "Love and Peace or Else."

Throughout the show, Bono weaved in John Lennon’s memory, telling the crowd about his memories of the night Lennon was murdered before "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For," then adding snippets of "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" to "Beautiful Day." Most poignantly, he dedicated "Original of the Species" to Lennon and the band performed a gorgeous rendition of the song.

U2 stuck with what’s become its standard set list for the main set, but offered outstanding performances of each song. During "Sunday Bloody Sunday," Bono pulled a small, blond-haired boy onstage with him. The boy, named Tristan, quickly understood what Bono wanted him to do and yelled "No more" louder and louder each time Bono held the microphone out to him. As he helped Tristan back into the crowd, Bono called the boy "the coolest cucumber in Buffalo." Despite sounding a little hoarse at the start of "Miss Sarajevo," Bono’s voice soared to reach every note of the operatic portion of the song. After "One," Bono and Edge closed the main set with an acoustic snippet of the Beatles’ "Help!" After singing a few lines, Bono stepped back and raised his hands, letting the crowd take over the rest. I haven’t seen a wider smile on his face than I did then.

The band opened the encore with a blazing version of "Until the End of the World," set alight by Edge’s virtuosic solo. He and Bono both strutted out around the catwalk, and near the end of the song, Bono took off after Edge, running full-force by his second lap around the stage. Again, I couldn’t believe how much fun the band seemed to be having, and the members’ good moods certainly lifted the performance.

Near the end of "Mysterious Ways," Bono ventured to the tip of the catwalk where he reached out to a woman who’d been holding up a sign saying she could belly dance. She gave a great performance, and the pair moved closer and closer to me. "Mysterious Ways" ended and as the band eased in to "With or Without You," Bono stopped directly in front of me. My mouth fell open a little and I gripped the rail more tightly. I admit that "With or Without You" isn’t one of my favorite U2 songs but with Bono singing it two feet away from me, glancing now and then down at the crowd—at me, even—I couldn’t help but feel mesmerized.

One of the highlights of the show came when the band paid tribute to John Lennon by performing "Instant Karma." Bono stumbled a little in the middle of the song, coming in at the wrong time after the solo, but he quickly recovered. "Maybe we’ll be headed back to the practice room with this one," he said with a chuckle at the end of the song, hinting that the song may be a staple in the set list for the rest of the tour.

The band closed the second encore with "Yahweh" and "40." Even though I’d been really hoping to hear "Bad," I love "40" as a closer, especially because each band member leaves the stage individually. As Bono, Adam, Edge and finally Larry left the stage, I had a chance to remember all my favorite moments of each of them for the tour, and to say goodbye to each of them with as loud of a cheer as my failing voice could muster.

Thank you, boys, for an incredible show and an incredible year.

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