Review: U2 at the Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, October 17, 2005* - U2 Feedback

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Old 10-25-2005, 11:12 PM   #1
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Review: U2 at the Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, October 17, 2005*

By Kal Carpenter

U2 fans are already calling this the show of the year, and I'd be hard-pressed to disagree. Obviously the bias factor comes in since it was the first show I've seen since right about this time four years ago during the historic shows at Madison Square Garden in post-9/11 New York. But if I can sit here now and type the following sentence after being a part of one of those shows, then the bias factor is quite insignificant.

It was the greatest performance I've ever witnessed by U2.

October 17th's U2 show in Philly was one thing, a gift: a gift to Philadelphia, a gift to out-of-towners like myself, a gift to any Bruce fans in attendance and, most importantly, a gift to U2 itself. The band outdid the expectations of the fans who caught the previous night's show and the fans who hadn't seen them in years. I think Bono even surprised himself a few times with some of the high notes he hit. His voice never sounded so powerful. That was a gift in itself. Whether it's God's gift or one his father passed to him after his death, Bono has truly been blessed with one of the most powerful and enduring voices of his time.

There are no perfect words to describe the show Monday night. You could feel it the whole day as clouds gave way early to nothing but sunny blue skies on warm day for Philadelphia in October. U2 fever was in the air as my friend and I got in line early to get good and close and perhaps inside the ellipse—the coveted dream spot for most floor ticket holders. We weren't so lucky, but still wound up about 10 feet outside the ellipse next to the railing on Edge's side.

As U2 was about to take the stage, the house lights turned down to The Arcade Fire's majestic "Wake Up." Then a lonely spotlight came down on Edge as he started playing what I thought was some kind of intro to "Vertigo." In my heart I wanted them to open with "City of Blinding Lights" as the opener of a U2 show is as important as any part to me, and to me that song makes for the best possible opener on the new album. Well my wish was granted as Edge then started into the familiar opening guitar chime of U2's most joyous rave-up since "Where the Streets Have no Name." The LED strings came down with confetti raining on the crowd, which was now roaring, and on its feet, jumping up and down like children on the playground. As the piano started, I got chills, now screaming and jumping like a child myself, only to turn to my right and see Bono seemingly raising from under the arena somewhere, his arms spread out, looking up at the ceiling, screaming and soaking in the moment as much as the rest of us. I've always declared that no opener could ever give me bigger chills than "Elevation" and the "whoo, whoo-ing" as the band took the stage, but to me at that moment "City of Blinding Lights" may have become their greatest opener yet. Ever since I booked my tickets for Philly, I had a hunch, or at least hoped that Bono would say "City of Brotherly Love" in one of the main choruses. He did, twice, in fact. The crowd ate that up as Bono knows how to pump a crowd better than Hulk Hogan.

The band then broke into "Vertigo" and just when I thought the crowd couldn't get any louder after an opening like that, I was proven wrong. "Unos, dos, tres, catorce" the crowd chanted with Bono, and the band truly rocked on this one. Bono struggled a little early it seemed, but by the end of the song as if to prove something to himself, he went above and beyond the call of duty, screaming his head off in a fury and intensity I haven't heard since the '80s. In fact after the song, he needed a water break as Edge broke into "Elevation." The crowd got a laugh when the spotlight fell on Bono in the middle of a water bottle search. I could be wrong, but it looked like he accidentally got handed a beer, took a swig, and opted for water instead. This version of the song was good, but didn't quite recapture its 2001 form. But how could it really? Then Bono said, "We'd like to play a few songs we wrote when we were teenagers," and Edge slid into "The Electric Co." Then came "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" with Bono passing the lead vocal spot to the ready, willing and very able sold out house for a few verses. I read a recent review about a show in Washington D.C. and the author seemed to be annoyed by Bono's apparent "dependence" on the audience for an occasional breather
on vocals. I must confess that the audience participation at a U2 show is something that myself, and I'm sure most others look, forward to just as much as hearing the band itself. You will never witness anything like it by anyone other than U2. The audience gets just as good a workout at U2 concert as the band does and we do it with pride. It is the least we can do for those four guys who work their ass off night in and night on out on their tour.

"Beautiful Day" was much of the same as you could almost feel the crowd lifting up the building, singing along to the swooping chorus. Then came a trio of newbies with "Miracle Drug" (with Bono giving a lengthy speech during the intro about Edge truly being from another planet as we all saw on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien"). "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own," was very moving and followed by one of the night's show-stealers, the ever-raucous "Love and Peace or Else." The band just flat out rocked the living hell out of this one with Bono banging on Larry's lone drum until I thought his arms were going to fall off. The entire house was in an absolute frenzy now and they didn't slow down rolling right into a passionate and relevant as ever "Sunday Bloody Sunday," followed by an almost scary version of "Bullet the Blue Sky." Just when the audience could take no more, the band slowed things down and Bono gave a very heartfelt rendition of "Miss Sarajevo" with Bono taking over Luciano Pavarotti's duties on tenor. He really nailed it too, which impressed the hell out of me with all the wailing and screaming he had just put his voice through in just the first half of the show. The crowd showed their appreciation and respect for his performance with a thunderous applause. And the house exploded yet again as they went into "Pride (In the Name of Love)." The "oh-oh-oh-ohs" from the crowd seemed to last an eternity, which I know the band just ate up.

Then it came, the moment all U2 fans wait for with giddy anticipation at a U2 show. I like to think of it as the "penultimate climax" of the evening. And as the low organ began to shimmer throughout the building and Edge's familiar chiming guitar came to life, I began screaming and jumping up and down, causing those around to follow suit. "Where the Streets Have no Name" on this night, took the audience to a place that no other song, band, or thing on this planet could take you. I'm not sure if it was Heaven, but it was someplace close. I think it takes the band to that same magical place, every night U2 plays it. It's a journey we all take with the band. I've never seen a bigger smile on Adam's face as Bono put his arm around the trusted bassist and friend as the song came to its ethereal conclusion. They then closed out the first set with a cell phone lit house set the tune of "One."

The break was quick as Bono and The Edge, carrying an acoustic guitar came right back out. The Edge started a familiar set of chords but I had to think a few seconds, until I realized they were playing my all-time favorite from "All That You Can't Leave Behind,"—"Walk On." I knew this was special, which was confirmed when I later found out that it was apparently the first time they had played it since the Elevation Tour. Then came the new live favorite of the band, "Fast Cars." The Spanish-tinged guitar piece came as a pleasant surprise though for a b-side as the band and crowd was really into it.

Then came the big surprise of the night and perhaps of the entire tour. Bono inquired to the audience about a sign he had seen earlier (in my direction) asking for "People Get Ready." He confessed the band would oblige, but only after they found a guitar player. As Bono was looking for any takers, out strolled none other than New Jersey's favorite son himself from the backstage area—The Boss. Bono played dumb at first pointing at him asking the crowd a few times "who's this guy?" to which the entire sold-out house gladly replied in that low, almost degrading tone, "Bruuuuuce." My eyesight isn't what it used to be, and I turned to my friend and said, "Who are they booing?" to which he replied "The Boss!" I couldn't believe it! I was in utter disbelief. Next to U2, there was only one other artist that I had never seen that I pledged I absolutely had to see before I die, and that was Bruce Springsteen. And there he was, with the other I had pledged to see before I die. All under the same roof, on the very same stage. They playfully jammed for about 10 minutes, with Bono even coercing Bruce's darling wife Patti Scialfa out on stage to join in the festivities. The crowd reached a fever pitch at this juncture. I was ready to ask my friend to pinch me really hard, or better yet, punch me in the face as hard as he could to determine if it all was really happening. But every time I began to wonder if this was real, I could feel the gigantic smile on my face, one so big that I doubt I would have recognized myself if someone had put a mirror in front of me.

The second encore quickly ensued as the band went back to "The Joshua Tree" with "With or Without You." I prayed the band had just a little bit more, and it didn't let us down, as it came back out for thirds, going full boar into the bands new biggest rocker "All Because of You." And then the night finally came to a poignant and peaceful close with an extended rendition of old favorite "40." And as is tradition, then band began their final exits as the song wound down. First Bono, then Adam, then Edge and, finally Larry. He stepped out in front of his drum set, and with a short humble wave to the audience that had humbled him, he walked off. It was over. For U2 anyway.

But not for us. No, the thousands of people who had just acknowledged the hardest working and greatest band in the world with a moving standing ovation, stayed. We weren't quite finished. We had a little more work to do. And so not a living soul moved, as we kept the moment alive and continued to serenade each other, the band, our loved ones, our forgotten ones, our memories, our demons, our mothers, our fathers, our brothers, our sisters, our sons, our daughters, our friends, our hopes, our fears and our dreams. "How long ... to sing this song?" we sang over and over until our voices had almost nothing left to give.

As I said earlier, there are no perfect words. No perfect words to describe that Monday night in Philadelphia, the "City of Brotherly Love." For three hours the arena in Philly became the "City of Blinding Lights" and, as Bono put it during an ad-lib of "People Get Ready," one that would even make New York shed a tear. But where it happened isn't point I'm trying to make. That band and that crowd of people, whether it was in that arena or my quaint home on the farm, that night became "The City of Blinding Lights."

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Old 10-26-2005, 08:45 AM   #2
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Review of Phila Monday night

Thank you so much for putting everything I felt that night into words. I will never forget that time that I spent with U2 and all of their friends.....

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Old 10-26-2005, 01:13 PM   #3
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I am so honored that I was there at a show that is considered to be one of their best this tour, and it was my first one! I feel so blessed!
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Old 10-26-2005, 03:01 PM   #4
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Beautifully written! That's how I felt at the concerts I was able to attend, even if they weren't in Philly on the 17th. It is truly an incredible experience.
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Old 10-26-2005, 09:03 PM   #5
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Perfect review. you took the words right out of my mouth. I just don't feel like I was there 5 rows from the stage. I guess it was ment for that one magical night.
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Old 10-26-2005, 09:50 PM   #6
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I was there for all 4 Philly shows this year- and it was the best. The absolute best U2 show I had been to regardless of what city.

There is no way to describe the energy and crowd participation level that night.
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Old 10-27-2005, 01:04 PM   #7
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To everyone - they played Walk on on Sept 20th in Chicago for the first time.
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Old 10-31-2005, 08:16 AM   #8
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Well stated

Thank you for taking the time to write such a clear account of the October 17th performance. I have been telling friends that I feel this was one of the best days of my life. I went to the performance just to hang out with other U2 fans, and was able to buy a ticket from someone on line. With the beautiful weather, beautiful people, and beautiful music…. Life just does not get much better than that. I printed your view to go into my scrapbook, because you wrote the words for what I felt. Thanks,

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