Found plate in the parking lot, Anaheim.

If you’re my FB friend or follow me on Twitter you know I just saw the U2 concert in Anaheim. “Saw” seems like too small a verb; witnessed was more like it.

I hadn’t planned on devoting blog space to the show but the concert was centerpiece to my weekend. My ears are still ringing. So, in as few lines as possible, here are my impressions:

The group delivered a solid and at times even spectacular show. Over the course of a two-hour concert, U2 played most of their hits, including “Pride (In the name of Love)” “Sunday Bloody Sunday” “Beautiful Day” and so on. And they did so with gusto –no “phoning in” the material. Yet, my favorite moments (by far) were when U2 played two songs from their Zooropa album, in particular the title track, which I frickin’ adore. For that number, the band pretty much surrounded itself in the stage’s elaborate technology, playing through a mosaic of shiny metal screens. It was pretty damn cool.

Dazzling… but far from intimate.

Still, as amazing as the “Claw” or “Spaceship” or whatever the hell they’re calling the contraption they play in is, I sincerely hope the band abandons it next time around. In the end it’s all too much. I want U2 to go back to concert halls and maybe even consider playing some theaters or nightclubs, the way the Stones did a few years ago.

Like most things social, good music is first and foremost about making a connection. If you’re sitting in a modern stadium it’s not easy. Yes, you get the spectacle but true emotions are harder to come by –even from a band that’s known for them.

Echoing the irony of U2’s lovely ballad, “Stay (Far away, So Close)” I found myself too far away to fully appreciate the song’s power. I literally had to shut my eyes to get closer to the music.

In the end it’s just four guys from Dublin…

Fortunately, for this show I had general admission tickets and a pass to the “inner ring,” so, at times, we were just yards from the performers. During these moments, Bono and the Edge literally walked right over us. Seeing a singer’s mouth actually moving and the guitarist’s fingers plucking and strumming makes a difference.

Despite the show’s magnitude, the band managed a few personal touches. It was longtime manager, Paul McGuinness’ 60th birthday and so he was brought on the stage while Bono led the whole stadium in singing Happy Birthday. Heartfelt and sincere, the intimate gesture was instantly magnified by the colossal setting. Lord knows Bono knows how to create such moments.

But it’s the music I like most about the band. I’ve said it before: U2 doesn’t write or sing about sex, drugs and the lifestyle. Despite being rock gods the band makes music on more important matters, like God Himself, Truth and Beauty, Pain and Wisdom, and of course Love. Case in point: “Magnificent” is an ode to God not a piece of ass. Motley Crue they are not. Say what you will about Bono, he and his mates aspire to the best in all of us.

Ground control to Bono…

Given I went to both U2 concerts in Chicago this weekend, I find it hard not writing about the experience. For those unawares, the foursome from Ireland landed their spaceship-like stage in Soldier Field, opening up the North American leg of their so-called “360 tour” in support of the new album, No Line On The Horizon.

For those unawares, I am a big U2 fan. Without question, they are my favorite rock and roll band in the world today. U2 plays a big, soulful kind of rock that feeds me like no other band or, for that matter, genre of entertainment can. More beautiful than Led Zeppelin, more bombastic than Coldplay, while many concert acts can amuse and distract, few are as transcendent as U2. On their game, Bono & his crew can bring chills; they can even make you cry.

I only really got into the band a decade ago. Sure, I’d listened to Joshua Tree in the eighties. Who didn’t? But it was their later live shows that hooked me. If the “Elevation” tour was a conversion, the “Vertigo” concerts had me born again. I kick myself for having not laid out the 5 dollars to see them in Madison, Wisconsin in 1982. I was across the street drinking beer in my dorm.

On a picture-perfect evening, U2 absolutely delivered at Soldier Field. For roughly 2 hours the jam-packed football stadium became the band’s oyster. They made a case for their new album by opening with four straight cuts. Ballsy move, given Horizon hasn’t caught on like their previous blockbuster. Then came the band’s gorgeous opus, Beautiful Day. Fitting, given Chicago’s rare, perfect weather. Bono opened that number with a mini-ramble about being an Irish boy in an Irish city. He said he liked to think his countrymen had a lot to do with building Chicago’s glorious skyline. (Actually, it was our sewers but who’s quibbling?)

For its architectural splendor U2’s colossal and lunar stage didn’t completely work. Instead of bringing the group closer to the people, as Bono had openly suggested, I found it alienating. Indeed, the four diminutive musicians looked like aliens beneath it. Based on some of the band’s joking rapport –repeatedly calling it a “spaceship” I got the sense that they, too, view the thing as a big but fun mistake. Resembling the iconic restaurant at LAX, it is something to behold, especially plopped in the center of a football field.

On the matter of said football field, I need to make an editorial. Getting to and from Soldier Field in Chicago is a nightmare. Period. And because of its location and size, there is no trick to getting it right. Everyone gets screwed. I’ve gone to football games and other shows at Soldier Field and always the same misery: parking is far away and hugely expensive. Cabs can’t get anywhere near it. Most people (myself included) end up exiting a stuck cab one half mile away or further…Adrenalin pumping, the walk there was somewhat agreeable but at 11:30 PM, exhausted and spent, I wanted my bed ASAP. Instead we had to trudge a mile and a half before absconding a taxi. And even then I had to fight for it.

To add near-injury to insult, both my wife and I were forced to climb a fence to escape the crush of exiting concertgoers. I kid you not. Police and roadblocks seemingly corralled our misdirected throng into this hopeless situation. Our only escape was to climb. I saw people falling and getting hurt. Ridiculous.

As Chicago anxiously awaits the outcome for its Olympic bid, I have to wonder how it can manage an Olympics if the City cannot even get folks safely to their cars (let alone home) from its primary venue! Mayor Daley, before building any new stadiums or other structures, how about fixing the main venue first. Soldier Field may be renovated but the transportation issues are manifest.

Despite the Bataan Death March to my car, I was exalted by U2’s performance. I couldn’t wait to go through it again the following night! For a detailed and, in my view, accurate review of the same concert here’s Greg Kott’s review from the Chicago Tribune:

Chicago Tribune\'s U2 concert review

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