Review: U2 at Oakland Arena, San Francisco, Nov. 9, 2005* - U2 Feedback

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Old 11-12-2005, 07:44 PM   #1
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Review: U2 at Oakland Arena, San Francisco, Nov. 9, 2005*

By Greg Soria

Seven months ago U2 rolled through California's Bay Area on the first leg of its Vertigo Tour. The two shows the band had in San Jose were both well-played and tight but to this reviewer lacked the emotion that I've come to associate with a U2 concert. No such problem November 9th at the Oakland Arena where U2 played a passionate, heartfelt show that deftly mixed some of its earliest material with its latest.

U2 opened with the standard "City of Blinding Lights," what seemed to me like a disconnected song opener back in April suddenly seemed relevant as Bono took the stage. I attribute this to the crowd reaction during both Oakland shows. While the San Jose crowd was enthusiastic, the Oakland crowd was down right rapturous once the band came on stage. This made "City" all the more exciting as the crowd stood up from the first note and didn't sit until they made it back to their cars two hours later.

Blockbuster hit "Vertigo" followed by "Elevation" was next, and both songs also had markedly improved in performance since April. Bono's voice seemed smoother and at the beginning of the show, very strong. However the strength in both of these performances was in the musicianship of the band as they followed all of Bono's cues. Adam Clayton was particularly having fun as evidenced at the end of "Elevation" when he lifted his bass guitar above his head and plucked the last note at the end of the song. When he brought his bass down he let out a chuckle and then smiled until the next song began.

The next two songs were golden oldies, starting with "I Will Follow," U2's first American single. Again, I was impressed with the strength of Bono's vocal performance. It reminded me of 1987 all over again, as opposed to the Elevation Tour version where he whispered the "your eyes" section and didn't seem to be able to push his vocals to a higher register. The audience reaction was explosive, as fans jumped up and down in the ellipse and the fans in the seats raised their fists in unison.

(Photo credit: Sicy)

The second golden oldie was the rarely played "Gloria." Well, rarely played since 1989/90 Lovetown Tour. Again Bono's newfound vocal power was impressive. In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Bono stated at one point he thought he might have had throat cancer a few years back. Fortunately, he didn't and whatever treatment he sought and received for his throat issues seems to have worked as he belted out the song like it was 1987.

Faithful versions of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "Beautiful Day" were followed by two stunning performances of "Miracle Drug" and "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own." This lead into what U2 calls the "Heart of Darkness" portion of the set.

"Love and Peace or Else" was the first song up, with Larry Mullen Jr. walking to the bottom of the catwalk to play drums with Bono joining him. The song lead into "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and then into a powerful version of "Bullet The Blue Sky" where The Edge put on a pyrotechnic guitar display. His guitar squealed and screamed as Bono sang about men and saxophones, and cities groaning. His guitar solo during "Bullet" was restrained and yet as powerful as it has ever been on tour. U2 then slipped out of the "Heart of Darkness" with a beautiful rendition of "Miss Sarajevo" in which Bono and the band slow it down and sing of the realities of living in a time of war.

(Photo credit: Sicy)

"Pride (In the Name of Love)" was served next and crowd in the ellipse was again pogo'ing as The Edge rung out the first notes of one of U2's most famous and popular songs. Bono ended the song by having the crowd sing "whoa oh" over and over and then the band segued into "Where the Streets Have no Name." This song never fails to bring the house down and that second night in Oakland was no exception. The crowd response was deafening and everybody in the 15,000 plus audience was on their feet as the houselights shone out into the crowd. At song's end Bono stood on the right side of the catwalk stunned at the response.

Before "One" Bono spoke to the crowd about the One Campaign, how we can help this cause and how successful the campaign has been to date with over 2 million people registered to support the cause. "One" was as angelic as ever and closed the main set.

Bono and The Edge came out alone to open the first encore set and began playing "The First Time" from "Zooropa." This gem of a song is always refreshing to hear. "Stuck in a Moment" was next and was dedicated to the late Michael Hutchence. Bono and Edge are then joined by Adam and Larry to finish the song that went directly into "With or Without You." To perform what is arguably U2's most famous song, Bono walked to the end of the catwalk and sought out a girl to dance with. When he finally chose one, she was pulled on stage with a dear in the headlights gaze and buried her head in Bono's shoulders as he sang. I think she floated back down to her spot when he let her go.

The second encore began with a tight and powerful performance of "All Because of You." After the last notes of "All Because of You" faded, Larry played a rolling drumbeat. "Desire"? No, instead we got "Fast Cars," a bonus track on certain editions of "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb." Bono brought another girl on stage, handed her a tambourine and placed her behind Larry to play along. He dedicated the song to the girls in the band Exit, a group that joined U2 on stage a few nights earlier in LA, and played a rousing version of the song.

The opening notes of "Bad" then rang out, whipping the crowd into frenzy. Bono gave all he had to the song but was noticeably struggling with the high parts. Still, the crowd carried him and he managed to bawl out the song much like he did in the ‘80s. Impressive with over a thousand concerts behind him and problems with his throat that he can still sing as powerfully as he does. He ended the song by adding a snippet of Patti Smith's "People Got the Power" and urged the audience to sing along, which we did.

One by one the band left the stage, ending an emotionally powerful show. The stage lights stayed out for quite some time, leading some to believe that we might get one more song. Instead, the lights suddenly turned on. No matter, U2 had just given 15,000+ fans one of the greatest concert experiences of their life, one so powerful that a fan told me that when he got home, he was so moved by the show that he never went to bed. That's a testament to the power of U2's performance that night.
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