Friday, April 22, 2005

Cultural Diversion: U2 On Tour 

My ears were ringing a day later.

Not so much, I suspect, from the sound of Edge's guitar (though he sounded great) or Bono's voice (not quite as great as Edge's guitar), but from the sound of 17,000 other people singing at the top of their lungs last Friday night. It's not that loud when matched up against stacks and stacks of amplified sound, but plenty loud when the band quieted down and let the crowd sing. To abuse an often-abused rock cliché, the crowd made the concert "go to eleven."

Of course, any concert can be loud; what separates U2 from many artists is that feeling that you're a part of something bigger than you. Believe me, I had a great time at the Pixies concert, but this was entirely different. I think of all the great U2 songs -- "Pride (In The Name of Love)," "Elevation" (not great, but lots of fun) -- and think of how well-built they are for crowd participation. Perfect for singing along. In fact, I remember listening to "City of Blinding Lights" off their new album and thinking, "this would sound great in concert as people sing 'OH YOU LOOK SO BEAUTIFUL TONIGHT' in the chorus." The band led off with the song, and I couldn't have been more right.

It's why in part we go to sports events. Sometimes we go to see human beings perform amazing feats, or sometimes we go to drink beer and be with friends. But there's something about cheering that binds us with people one row down or the next section over that can transcend those other, simpler pleasures. And so it is with U2.

There was nothing in the concert that would change your opinion of Bono if you think he's an overproselytizing weenie. I can handle Bono's preaching (a deliberate choice of verb there), but can understand why it might set some people on edge. I think that's part and parcel of enjoying U2, though -- the sense that there are other things bigger than yourself -- and it's possible to really like U2 even if you wish Bono would just stop talking about Africa for awhile.

But, dude, how was the concert?

It was great. I had general admission tickets, got to Glendale Arena about 7 PM (and saw the new half-finished Cardinals' stadium just to the south -- very Frank Gehry-like, all swoops and juts). The line was long but orderly, and by 7:30 I was inside with my friends. I didn't get randomly picked to be inside the "ellipse," but found a nice spot maybe 10 feet away from the circular ramp that extended from both sides of the stage and which created the ellipse.
And so several times throughout the night one U2 band member or another would stroll by singing or playing (even, yes, drummer Larry Mullen, Jr.) ten feet away. For somebody like myself who was hundreds of feet away the last (and only other) time he saw the band (Sun Devil Stadium for the Popmart tour), being so close was great. Song selection was great -- mostly "hits," but enough back-catalog stuff to keep the casual fans (like me) intrigued and the hard-core fans pleased.

So if you're a casual U2 fan, I heartily encourage you to find a ticket to these concerts (they're coming back through the US in the fall). You don't have to be a super-fan like this writer to enjoy the show. Her comment near the beginning of the article probably explains why bloggers blog:

"Everyone has one beautiful obsession, something trivia and drudgery haven't worn down. A band, Star Wars, NASCAR, scrapbooking. Something that says the real you is still in there."

I couldn't agree more.

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