U2 in Anaheim: Observations from under the “Claw.”
June 20, 2011
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.
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.
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.