Review: U2 at the United Center in Chicago, May 12, 2005* - U2 Feedback

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Old 05-13-2005, 11:20 AM   #1
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Review: U2 at the United Center in Chicago, May 12, 2005*

By Chrissi Blaesing
2005.05



Having done the bulk of the filming for the Vertigo Tour DVD on Monday and Tuesday night, the United Center seemed almost empty without the now-familiar cameras and extra lighting that had dominated those shows, but it turned out that Thursday's show didn't need any extra trappings. U2 was in an easy and joyful mood for its last night in Chicago—joking with the crowd and with each other—and it seemed as if the stress of filming the DVD was finally over and now the band members could just enjoy themselves.

My seats for this show were two rows up from behind the stage directly in front of The Edge's piano. I highly recommend that everyone try and experience at least one show from the behind the stage vantage point—not only do you get to see the view that the band does but the proximity to the band is wonderful. I was also with a group of die-hard U2 fans who made the concert experience so much more enjoyable. Prior Kings of Leon’s set, a Vertigo crewmember tore off the set list next to Larry Mullen Jr.'s drum kit and, by coincidence or not, guitar tech Dallas Schoo was seen leaving his underground work station seconds later in a rush. The set list did not appear again until a few minutes prior to U2 taking the stage.

For the first time on this tour, "Vertigo" opened the show and was met with amazing energy by the audience. More surprises followed with typical second encore opener "All Because of You" shuffled to the second song of the night status. The flow from "Vertigo" to "All Because of You" is amazing, to say the least, the energy level of the band and the audience gave the show the "lift off" that Bono had stated he wanted for this show.

"Elevation" flowed seamlessly afterward perhaps because both songs feature animals of some sort in them (that would be the "mole in the hole" and the "intellectual tortoise"). Old back catalog favorites "Gloria" and "The Ocean" followed with Bono ending the latter song by trying to remember what Chicago club U2 had played at in its early years. After a couple moments of Bono drawing a blank, some helpful fans outside of the Ellipse supplied the name of the Park Place. The singer seemed happy with the response and looped back to the stage stating to the rest of the band, "How do we get out of this?" referring to the fact that he had no idea how to end the song. Bono was in the most playful mood that I'd seen all week—it was really a joy to watch him have such a good time.

"Beautiful Day" followed with full audience participation and Bono out on the Ellipse far more than on previous nights. "Miracle Drug," as always, was beautiful Thursday. Bono sang with The Edge on the first line of the guitarist's vocal solo, then put down his microphone and mouthed the words along as The Edge sung the last line. "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" saw Bono alone on the Ellipse facing back to the band. Vocally I felt this was one of Bono's better nights, he effortlessly hit the rather challenging "Can you hear me when I sing?" line.

"Love and Peace or Else" saw Larry Mullen, Jr. taking a much more relaxed stroll down the Ellipse to join Bono at the tip. Again the audience participation with the songs made each one more vibrant. At the conclusion of the song the drummer was broadly grinning and waving at the audience as he made his way back to the main stage, a surprise gesture from the generally reserved Mullen.

The backbone of U2's political message included the familiar trio of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "Bullet the Blue Sky" and "Running to Stand Still," yet the songs seemed almost reverent tonight with Bono stopping to acknowledge that some service men and women were in the audience tonight, stating that it didn't matter what military base they were from (I believe he forgot the name and said something along the lines of Camp Whatever-It's-Called) as long as they stayed safe. While dedicating "Running to Stand Still" to the military has become a constant in the show, Thursday's dedication seemed to be more personal and heartfelt.

The opening of "City of Blinding Lights" blended beautifully with the dying strains of the audience singing the "hallelujahs" from "Running to Stand Still," making an odd placement of songs not only plausible for this night but also for future shows as well.
"City of Blinding Lights" was another standout performance by the band and also my favorite visually from Willie Williams' set design. "Original of the Species" came next in the opening set with Bono stating that the song worked so well during the May 10th show that the band decided to try the song again, saying the audience should "Thank Edge" for the inclusion of the song (I would now like to personally thank The Edge). The rendition was flawless and Bono could be seen mouthing the words to Mullen as the song ended.

One of the most interactive versions of "Pride" followed with breathtaking vocals by Bono. My vantage point from behind the stage proved to be amazing for the opening of "Where the Streets Have No Name." The site of the entire arena literally coming to life as the house lights flash on must be such an incredible high for the band—it truly is a religious experience. Bono and Clayton once again met up at the tip of the Ellipse for a quick hug and kiss before heading back to finish the song with Mullen and The Edge. "One," as usual, ended the opening set, but this featured Bono bringing up two fans from the Ellipse that had a sheet with the word "INDIFFERENCE" crossed out. They slowly took the sign around the lip of the Ellipse before descending from the same area that Bono emerges from for "City of Blinding Lights."

The band then left the stage to deafening applause from the audience and the "Achtung Baby" visuals appeared on the screens but instead of the familiar opening for "Zoo Station," fans were treated to the tour debut of live favorite "Until the End of the World." If the response from the audience is any indication, U2 would do well to start rotating this beloved song back into the set list. The song was delivered, as one would expect it to be, flawlessly. The only disappointment, in my opinion, was no bullfight between Bono and The Edge. Regardless, it was wonderful to hear this die-hard fan favorite in a live setting again.

"The Fly" followed with a stunning guitar solo by The Edge, and also noteworthy for Bono contributing guitar (and, to my untrained ear, playing well). A funky version of "Mysterious Ways" came next with Bono extending the song with some "Bono-ese" that has been missing this tour. The singer was apparently enjoying himself during this song as he sported a playful grin/smirk for the audience. I had expected the band to descend from the stage at this point but instead the crowd was treated to the second-only Vertigo performance of "With or Without You" that saw Bono pull up a female fan from the front of the Ellipse for a sweet dance. At the end of the song where Bono usually would tag on the "Shine like stars" line, he instead added a snippet of "Strangers in the Night" that, strangely enough, worked very well in the song.

The second encore started out with "Yahweh" and an absent Mullen. He finally ascended to the stage right before his keyboard part but that didn't stop a proud Bono from commenting on the drummer’s skills. I'm still in awe that U2 as a band can inspire an entire arena to sing a word as sacred and religious as "Yahweh" and make it neither sacrilegious nor corny but, then again, that can be said for the entire show.

Those who have seen any of the Vertigo shows would have predicted that the traditional band rendition of "40" would come next but instead the band decided to, yet again, turn the traditional set list around with the addition of "Bad." While Saturday night's version of "Bad" was beautiful, Thursday's version put that one to shame. The band as a whole was tighter than I have ever seen them—each member delivering a performance that made me want go up to the soundboard and demand a copy of this song alone. Bono then launched into snippets of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" and The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" before he started to sing the familiar "How long to sing this song?" to the roar of the audience. At this point Bono turned around to acknowledge a fan behind the stage dressed up as Elvis Presley (complete with sideburns and a gold suit) by stating that “we would sing this song until Elvis came back." The fan also earned an amused double take from Clayton.

As "40" wound down Bono stated that he didn't want to leave; the feeling was mutual on the audience's part. What happened next will make me forever grateful for my supposedly "bad" behind the stage seats. As Clayton and Edge closed in on Mullen to end the song, Bono came between the two men and threw his arms around their shoulders, forming a tight unit of the four band members. The three that I could see (Clayton, Bono and Edge) had nearly identical joyous grins on their faces as they finished the song together not only as musicians but as friends that have seen the best and worst of each other for more years than not. I honestly don't care if I never get pulled up on stage with Bono, get a guitar pick from The Edge or Clayton, or a drumstick from Mullen—seeing the circle U2 formed to close out "40" was by far the greatest experience I will ever witness at a U2 concert.

The spirit was truly in the house Thursday night and I only hope that all who experienced this show felt the same way.

If you were at the final Chicago show and would like to contact Chrissi, e-mail her at chrissib@mac.com.
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Old 05-13-2005, 02:04 PM   #2
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That was a beautiful review...the last comment about 40 brought tears to my eyes, seriously.
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Old 05-14-2005, 02:22 PM   #3
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Great review!!!
Wish I was there.
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Old 05-15-2005, 07:06 PM   #4
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O.K. now I'm really Syched. Great Review!!!!!!!
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Old 05-15-2005, 07:12 PM   #5
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I cannot wait for NJ on Tuesday
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Old 05-18-2005, 02:16 AM   #6
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Great review! You're very lucky to have witnessed such a great show and 4 incredibly great people!
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Old 07-26-2005, 03:33 PM   #7
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Great review. I was there too!
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Old 08-22-2005, 09:01 PM   #8
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Beautiful review. Thank you very much for posting it.
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