Thursday 23 July 2009

Irishmen in Space - U2 Live 21 July 2009

Space Junk. That's what U2's Bono called the contraption looming high above the stage, its four huge legs supporting a gigantic circular video screen, and with a large oblong column pointing down from its center. The whole thing seemed to have come straight out of War of the Worlds, and I was fully expecting to be hit by a heat ray at any moment!

As it turned out, even without belligerent action from the black monster - known as The Claw in U2 circles - the temperature in the Amsterdam ArenA rose steadily to uncomfortable levels throughout the course of the evening. Or at least it did in the area where I was standing, which was located directly in front of the stage and separated from the rest of the hall by a circular walkway.

I had a sneaking suspicion that they miscalculated the number of people allowed in this closed off area, because we were packed like sardines in there. This did not help with the tropical conditions, which were further exacerbated by the fact that most people had entered the venue more than a little wet from having been lashed by the sometimes torrential rain the last hour or so we had been standing outside waiting to get in.

To stay with the temperature theme, the task of warming up the crowd tonight had been assigned to Snow Patrol, a band pretty well known in their own right. From the way their frontman got the crowd going, it was obvious the band is a local favourite. They certainly didn't leave me cold, even though I knew but three of the about eight or nine songs they played. This was Snow Patrol's second tour with U2 (after Vertigo four years ago), but I would expect them to outgrow the supporting stage soon.

At about nine thirty an ear deafening roar from the crowd welcomed the arrival of U2 on stage. The band launched straight into a handful of songs from their latest offering No Line on the Horizon. Not having previously listened to that album, this was my first exposure to the new material. All in all it left a very good impression, especially the powerful title track. Following this the band presented an overview of their career through some of their biggest hits but also some less obvious songs. Thus we were treated to such chart toppers as Beautiful Day, Pride and One, and more modest gems like MLK and Ultraviolet.

The band were in top form, with Bono the center of attention, as befits a charismatic frontman. He made good use of the walkway and the two movable bridges arching to it from the stage, and from time to time both The Edge and Adam Clayton were also seen traversing its perimeter. Even Larry Mullen, Jr. was given some respite from his confinement behind the drum kit when he got to take a turn along the walkway, hauling a conga with him. Some impromptu fun was had when it became obvious that he had miscalculated the time it took him to complete his walk: when he realized that he had to get back to his drum kit immediately but still had some distance to go, he broke into a run, a bashful smile appearing on his face. Throwing his conga into the hands of an onrushing roady, he all but dived behind his drum kit, where he arrived just in time to continue the song.

Attention was also given to U2's sociopolitical causes. South African bishop Desmond Tutu appeared on the video screen to deliver a message about the oneness of people and their power to change the world around them for the better. Bono also drew attention to the plight of Burmese political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been languishing under house arrest for many years.

After the dramatic With or Without You - my earliest recollection of a U2 song - the band closed the night with Moment of Surrender, after which we had to surrender ourselves to the push and pull of the crowd which began streaming inexorably towards the exits, and U2 had to surrender the ArenA to the Kanes and Frans Bauers of this world. Even so, U2 is still the biggest band of that world.

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Anonymous Biedjee said...

nice write up

24 July 2009 at 00:15  
Anonymous Chantal said...

Reading this felt like being there. I think that even PJ would enjoy U2 this way :-)

30 July 2009 at 20:40  

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