U2 in Anaheim: Observations from under the “Claw.”

June 20, 2011

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.


5 Responses to “U2 in Anaheim: Observations from under the “Claw.””

  1. jim schmidt said

    U2 is a good band that seemed great during a very mediocre time for rock music–the 80’s. (Much like REM) They’ve since become a big postmodern circus that needs to scale down and learn a few more chords as they seemingly write the same songs over and over with the only variance being the production values. Bono once said he wanted to be bigger than the Beatles–well, as the Rolling Stones said, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

    • SRP said

      I feel the same way about Bruce Springsteen. Couple truly great tunes and the rest of it all derivative boogie-woogie. In addition, Bruce and Bono have more in common than either camp might prefer.

      PS: I love these silly debates: like arguing best guitarist in the schoolyard!

  2. jim schmidt said

    I like u2, going to see them at soldier field. and i like bruce. both have many similarities–one being that both take themselves far too seriously at times. the other being that both try way too hard to be bands of the people while living a rich man’s lifestyle. i did meet bruce once, he was a nice guy. also met the edge, he was a dick. and he won’t take off his hat because he’s had a botched hair transplant. that being said, neither can hold a candle to the beatles as songwriters or shapers of culture.

    • SRP said

      I didn’t know about the “botched hair job.” Funny and sad, given the band’s much crooned about humility. Ah, well, life is full of contradictions. PS: What about Sir Paul at Wrigley?

  3. jim schmidt said

    Wrigley has been the site of some truly awful concerts–Dave Matthews, Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffet. For once, they’ve booked a major talent. To hear Penny Lane or Paperback Writer in that setting should be pretty nice. As for U2’s humility, trust me, it’s mostly manufactured. Bono, does fucking Louis Vuitton ads for god’s sake. And wears sunglasses at night. I

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