6/14 – Tampa, FL – Raymond James Stadium

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All in all a great show by my favorite band!

but click here if you want my honest, not-so-positive opinion...

This was my 9th U2 show. Having seen them four times before in Tampa, and four in Madison Square Garden, I had a unique perspective on this show. The opening set was just awesome. Four guys playing, raw and powerfully, with zero visuals. I wish the audience were more excited. There was excitement, but it felt like the audience was tired (maybe because it was a Wednesday night after work, after hiking through a thunderstorm to get to the stadium). The JT performance had soaring moments. But I think the band made a really risky decision to play Side 2 of Joshua Tree, and then let Bono launch into his political banter right after that. Why risky? Well, I would bet that half the Tampa crowd knew Side 2 songs on JT, so there was some momentum loss there. But then to couple that with political banter, really made the middle feel "heavy" and almost "fatigue-like" for me (and, for the first time at a U2 show, I started to feel uncomfortable, not with anything Bono was saying, but by the lack of audience reaction). The thing is, you could tell Bono was carefully choosing his words, and his message got convoluted at times (it started to feel like a political rally, by a really bad politician, that not everyone wanted to attend). Bono seemed to be trying to cater to (what he perceived to be) a more politically conservative crowd, but I don't think the audience was really that conservative (Tampa is located in Hillsborough County, which is strongly liberal, and there was a pretty hearty international presence at this concert - and if you were a conservative at this concert, you probably knew that Bono would get political and were willing to accept it anyway because you wanted to hear the music). Why did I feel uncomfortable? Well, the band seemed disappointed they didn't get a larger audience reaction to some of Bono's statements (there wasn't any boo'ing, and there was plenty of cheering, but the entire stadium certainly didn't cheer). I felt the band started holding back a little bit after that (and, for the record, the only other time I've seen U2 show disappointment with an audience was also in Tampa, at Popmart, where Edge made a comment about the small size of the audience - "feel free to spread out!"). I feel like U2 may have made some incorrect assumptions about Tampa on this tour. Just in general, if they think they're playing a more politically conservative crowd, I feel like they should take a different strategy. How about just playing your asses off start-to-finish, melting all 60000 hearts in the stadium, and then making a few political statements at the end to get the crowd thinking (sometimes, when it comes to changing hearts and minds, giving your all musically and preaching just a little can be the way to go). In the bigger picture, the concert ranked in the middle, for me, in terms of the strength of the band's performance. The best show I've ever seen them play was MSG in June 2001, and the second best for me was Tampa at the old stadium on the ZooTV tour - so those are always my reference points. Unfortunately, this was my most expensive U2 concert to date, and having those other shows in mind, I really expected them to "bring it" (there were some amazing moments, but they weren't performing at 100%, and I really wanted 110% after paying nearly $700 for two tickets, and that was AS A FAN CLUB MEMBER!). I think that history will show that pouring their hearts out musically as a band, and not Bono's preaching, is what has ultimately sustained their fan base.
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