Review: U2 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Nov. 1, 2005* - U2 Feedback

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Old 11-03-2005, 08:47 AM   #1
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Review: U2 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Nov. 1, 2005*

By Devlin Smith, Contributing Editor

I had a feeling U2's show November 1st at the Staples Center in LA would be special. First, it was a U2 show, always an event. Next, it was the day after Larry Mullen Jr.'s birthday and since the band was playing on the actual date, I figured the odds were strong that something special would be in the making. I was right.

After spending time with some friends from my former job, I headed off to my seat with my brother to check out Damian Marley's set. I didn't really know much about Marley or his music, other than the obvious fact that he's Bob's son, so I was pleasantly surprised by his set. Taking to the stage accompanied by a five-piece band, two back-up singers and a flag-waver (my new dream job), Marley was engaging and entertaining, his mix of reggae and R&B keeping the crowd hyped for his entire set.

The definite highlight of Marley's opening turn was when he was joined by older brother Ziggy for two songs, including a cover of their father's classic "Could You Be Loved?" My brother, who is a Bob Marley fanatic, was in heaven, this being the closest he'd ever come to experiencing Bob live.

And after that, it was time for U2 to take the stage. The band was back to coming on to "City of Blinding Lights," my favorite of the band's openers since I feel that song really expresses the concert experience. Then came "Vertigo" with a snippet of "Rock 'n' Roll Nigger" thrown in, a nod to U2's upcoming opening act in New York, Patti Smith.

I was sitting in side view seating on Edge's side, just around 10 feet from the guitarist's mic stand. Without a doubt I had the best seats in the house, nearly. I had a perfect view of everything, except Larry who, unfortunately, was just out of my eye line. While I missed Larry, I did get a great view of the ellipse, the rest of the GA floor, most of the stadium, the stage and the behind-the-scenes goings on. From this vantage point I also saw Bono being snuck into the ellipse so he could make his grand entrance.

"Elevation" followed "Vertigo" with a little happy birthday mention thrown in. "Electric Co." was next and I was in heaven, dancing my heart out to the first four songs. "The Ocean" slowed it down some as Bono changed the classic's lyrics to become a U2 bio. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" brought the spirit into the building like it always seems to. During this, the band threw in a bit of "In a Little While" and Bono promised everyone, "We're just getting started."

"Beautiful Day" kept the momentum going, with a little "Sgt. Pepper" thrown in for good measure. "Miracle Drug" was introduced by Bono with a speech about Edge, who sounded amazing singing his verse, being from the future with the message that the future is better, something that seems truly possible at a U2 concert. The song was then dedicated to the people at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Bono next introduced "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" by sharing a story about his father where Bob Hewson once asked, "Do you ever take those f---ing glasses off?" Bono performed the song sans shades and magnificently belted out "Can you hear me when I sing?"

"Love and Peace or Else" brought the tempo back up and rocked. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" made the crowd go wild and began Bono's "coexist" message. To further this point, he pulled a young girl from the ellipse to join him on stage. A nod to "Peace on Earth," a song I'd adore hearing live, was thrown in for good measure.

"Bullet the Blue Sky" followed with the now regular inclusions of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" and "Hands That Built America." Edge's solo was tremendous, really gritty and bluesy.

After that, Edge walked over to the keyboard and Bono introduced "Miss Sarajevo," explaining that the song was recorded with Luciano Pavarotti, who wasn't in attendance, but Bono had been "hitting the pasta" so would try his best with the operatic portion. All that pasta eating must be paying off because the performance was magical. I literally had chills. The only downside of the song was that Edge's mic didn't seem to be working and I couldn't hear any of his backing vocals.

The Declaration of Human Rights video, shortened since the first leg of the tour, introduced "Pride," which was then followed by "Where the Streets Have No Name," dedicated, "From Rosa Park's America to Nelson Mandela's Africa."

Then Bono asked everyone in the crowd to take out their cell phones because, "We want to turn the Staples Center into the Milky Way." Looking out across the floor and three tiers of glowing phone screens was really beautiful. And knowing that those phones have helped make a difference in the lives of thousands of Africans by way of The One Campaign made the moment even more powerful.

"One" closed out the first set with "Old Man River" thrown in to honor Katrina's victims.

The first encore began with Bono and Edge doing an acoustic set comprised of "The First Time" and "Stuck in a Moment," dedicated to Michael Hutchence. Larry and Adam Clayton joined in for the last few bars of “Stuck” and then the band went into "With or Without You" as Bono plucked an Adam-loving girl from the crowd to dance with. They hugged and swayed while she pointed and made eyes at the bass player.

The encore ended with Bono depositing his dance partner back into the floor area and saying "Bye, bye," as he waved to her and the rest of the stadium.

For the final encore, the entire band came out wearing "Larry Mullen Band" T-shirts, an idea they must have gotten from the fans who've been making and wearing similar shirts for years, and the crowd then serenaded the drummer with "Happy Birthday to You." "All Because of You" was next and then Bono spotted a sign in the crowd, "Bassist, singer, guitarist, drummer, let's go," and brought the members of LA's Exit on stage to perform a version of "Out of Control" that blew the roof off Staples.

"Fast Cars" was introduced by Bono as a song the band had never played before. Not quite, but it still sounded amazing. After a brief conference with Edge, the band decided to play "Yahweh" and then ended with the classic "40."

As always, Bono left the stage first, leaving his cowboy hat on the mic stand, then Adam and Edge, then Larry with his drum solo. Larry left the drums and stepped up to the mic, something I'd never witnessed before, grabbed Bono's hat and slipped it on, sort of like he was trying on the lead singer role. He thanked everyone for coming to the party and for the gifts and then said, "Thank you to Bono, Edge and Adam for being my back up band." Then he stepped back from the mic, waved to the crowd and left.

The night was special; special because of Larry's birthday, special because of the seven people who joined U2 on stage, special because my friends got into the ellipse, special because my other friends managed to get tickets without being busted by the cops for scalping, special because I got to hang out with my brother, and special because it was U2.

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Old 11-03-2005, 12:17 PM   #2
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Thanks, that's the next best thing to being there.

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Old 11-07-2005, 05:44 PM   #3
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GREAT review! you captured my feelings exactly! it was my first concert EVER, and sooooo good....
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