Thursday, December 02, 2010

Rejoice! U2 are back in town. U2 360 Melbourne concert review

They came with new songs – Return of the Stingray Guitar and Mercy – suggesting a band still enjoying the simple pleasure of being creative.

They came with old, playing songs from 10 of their albums. (There is nothing from Zooropa or Pop, but a fantastic Bono performance of Miss Sarejevo, a reminder of just how wide remains the span of his vocal range). Streets and With or Without You were standouts.

They also came with old songs new. In countless concerts over the last decade, Bono has invited prayer for the release of Aung San Suu Ky. With her recent freedom, U2 have turned to Scarlet, a song from their 1981 album, October. Never before has it been played live in concert. Suddenly the lyrics, “rejoice” become remarkably poignant, with the gathered crowd invited to give thanks for answered prayer.

Despite the songs, the take home memory remains the “claw.” Brilliantly lit, it manages through state of the art video and sound to bring a sense of intimacy to stadium rock. As if Bono needed any help to loom larger than life!

The theme is time, with constant ticking visual reminders, supported by video footage from back in time: U2 archival material from the Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. It ensures the entire show has an overall theme, that of the invitation to walk on in time.

Not all was perfect. U2 are skilled at employing call and response to generate connection between band and audience. This ensures some remarkable moments – 60,000 Australians singing of Amazing Grace and confessing “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” It also ensures some glitches, with some of Bono’s calls simply too complicated for a corporate sung response.

The opening bracket lacked cohesion. Despite a promising start – “Gidday” in perfect Australian before winding the crowd into Beautiful Day – the opening grouping of songs seemed to stutter. This has been a constant struggle in this 360 tour. (For my review of their Raleigh concert, see here). In Melbourne, Magnificent felt too early, a beat starting to slow before the audience had been effectively gathered.

This lack was overcome by the meditative middle three of Bad, In A Little While and Miss Sarajevo, accentuating the spectacular burst into City of Blinding Lights and Vertigo. Offering the chance to simply rejoice, U2 are back in town.

Posted by steve at 12:09 PM


  1. Thanks for the preview of what I can look forward to tomorrow night!

    Comment by Michelle — December 2, 2010 @ 10:25 pm

  2. Thanks for fuelling my sense of anticipation Steve. My wife Simone gave up on U2 at PopMart because of the outdoor show and platinum prices… I convinced her to venture out last time and it wasn’t a great night so not even the Claw could help me this time… I’m going with three friends to sit in the stands on Mon 13th and with Darren W to stand somewhere close on Tue 14th…
    My fav all time track is ‘Streets’ so I hope it is better than last time!! Though a friend and tragic was driving across town last time and pulled into the Olympic site and sat on his car bonnet listening outside… he texted me when the red screen came up and the familiar strains were heard loud and clear 100m from outside the venue!!

    Comment by Rob Hanks — December 2, 2010 @ 10:51 pm

  3. Rejoiced well by the sound of it Steve – now for the barmy army – hope its a great week

    Comment by Jo Wall — December 5, 2010 @ 6:23 am

  4. Good thoughts, Steve. But no mention of Jay-Z?

    Fri night was a better show, overall I think. With New Years Day being played second, and the addition of Stuck in a Moment (for Michael Hutchence) instead of Mercy. Was great to hear Ultraviolet live for the first time, though it replaced Hold me, Thrill Me.

    I can’t help feeling that conceptually this show lacked somewhat. It certainly felt like one of the best bands in the world playing great tunes with a big show, but less like a linear work of art. For all the faults of Pop (the album), PopMart was a magnificent and original statement. The theme of time and references to their ‘spaceship’ stage this time felt a bit tacked on.

    The best moments in this show were the simple ones, standing together, with the stronger songs (Still Haven’t Found, In a Little While, Moment of Surrender). i thought generally the 360 stage was underutilized (and I was standing 2m from the front).

    The genius of the 360 stage is meant to be about people, rather than screens, the collective ‘us’ that always gives the best chills – (I’m thinking the opening riffs of Pride or Streets in the Rattle & Hum movie, when for the first time we catch a glimpse of the audience). In some ways this show could have been more effective if the stage was less the issue. That’s what makes the intimate shows often the best – and U2’s great gift is shrinking the room.

    This did not reach the high water marks of either ZooTV – certainly their greatest live achievement – or the intimacy of Elevation. This felt somewhere in between: a little shock and awe, and a few chills and emotion. But not enough of either.

    But after all, I’m really just quibbling – we are hard pressed to find anyone else in the globe able to match them at this craft. They’ve done it at this level for 25 years, so they’re really just up against themselves.

    Comment by Tim — December 5, 2010 @ 6:23 pm

  5. Thanks Tim. Jay-Z was rubbish. Tiger should be charging $20 for every rap that boy sings.

    I don’t like Stuck in a moment and am a bit over Pride. But I love Bad and Mercy, so stoked I hit Wednesday,


    Comment by steve — December 5, 2010 @ 8:26 pm

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