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6.30.2009

Review: U2, Barcelona, June 30, 2009 

Just got back from the opening concert of U2's 360 tour. I forgot to bring a USB cable with me, so pics will have to wait until I get back home. Post is full of spoilers obviously, so if you don't want to be spoiled then go away.

Setlist:

Breathe
No Line On The Horizon
Get On Your Boots
Magnificent
Beautiful Day
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Angel Of Harlem
In A Little While
Unknown Caller
The Unforgettable Fire
City Of Blinding Lights
Vertigo
I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Pride
MLK
Walk On

Encore:
Where The Streets Have No Name
One

Encore:
With Or Without You
Moment Of Surrender

Generalities:

The stage has the same inner platform + outer walkway from the previous two tours and a giant cylindrical silkscreen. The whole thing is capped off by this really odd inverted claw thingy. The tour has this futuristic theme -- in the middle of tonight's show, the band even held a brief conference call (only part of it intelligible) with the crew aboard the International Space Station.

Review:

Performance-wise, this is easily the worst U2 concert I've been to. Obviously some of it can be chalked up to rust, but there were other problems as well.

Let's start with the good. The setlist was outstanding -- Ultraviolet hasn't been played since the ZooTV tour if I recall correctly, and The Unforgettable Fire died out after the Joshua Tree tour. Both songs sounded great. I was pretty high up in the stands, so I couldn't see if Edge was using his Fernandes or an EBow for the sustain for the UF string part, but it had a real snarl to it. Angel of Harlem was as soulful as ever, and Bono dedicated it to the late Michael Jackson and performed brief bits of Man In The Mirror and Don't Stop Till You Get Enough at the end.

The new album material was mostly excellent as well, but I didn't really understand why Breathe was chosen as an opener. NLOTH and Magnificent are much better openers and much better songs overall, and both sounded excellent. I'll Go Crazy turned into this really wack hip-hop remix that can't be described here.

Okay, now out come the knives. U2 brought back Walk On in light of Aung San Suu Kyi's recent troubles, and for some reason they thought it would be a good idea to distribute life-size masks of her face to everyone in the audience, and also to bring out a couple dozen crew members to wear them out on the catwalk during the song. I thought it was super-super tacky and hope they abandon the idea tomorrow.

Bono's never had the most refined sense of style, but unfortunately his voice and memory seemed to have gone missing for most of the night. During numerous songs Bono had to have the audience pick him up as he either skipped lines or couldn't hit them, and he repeated the first verse of With Or Without You. In addition, his voice (speaking and singing) had absolutely no bottom end for most of the concert; instead it sounded thin and nasal. Finally, the band screwed up One pretty horribly. I'm not sure what happened, but for some reason Bono didn't go into the third verse ("Have you come for forgiveness/have you come to raise the dead") as the band played on. I'm not sure how this happened, but the crowd again tried to pick him up, and I think the crowd actually went straight into the middle-eight ("Love is a temple/love the higher law"), and eventually Bono had to tell Edge in front of everyone to go back and redo the verse. At least Edge was reasonably cool about it -- I thought there was about a 2% chance that he was going to kill someone.

Despite the band's foibles and Bono's shredded voice, U2 still put on an uplifting, energizing show. Just don't expect a bravura performance from the diva.

EDIT: After listening to a boot of the concert, I figured out what happened on "One". Bono forgot the lyrics to the second verse ("Did I disappoint you") and requested a mulligan on the second verse. The band played the verse and chorus again, then launched into the middle-eight ("Love is a temple") and the band followed, while Bono thought they were going to go into the third verse ("Have you come here for forgiveness"), and it took a minute for everything to get sorted out.

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