Sunday, May 29, 2011

U2 From the Endzone

The more you see the less you know
The less you find out as you go
I knew much more then, than I do now
-- U2, "City of Blinding Lights"

If you have read this blog oft, you know that I am drawn to the stage.  Front and side, front and side, sometimes on, but always in the thick of the crowd.  When I was invited to have a ticket in U2's general admission (floor) section, I responded with a resounding "yes!"  At noon the day of the U2 concert, we looked at our tickets.  Our seats were precisely two rows from the top of the north endzone.

As we walked into Rice Eccles stadium, one could not help but notice The Claw, a massive stage set with a needle shooting to the heavens.  I know that the "typical" concert goer is awed by structures and stage sets, but as one who is enthralled by music and great performances, it's a hard sell to inspire me with a stage build out that took over 100 semi trucks to transport.  That said, I do believe I have photographs of The Claw's changing landscape of lights and colors for every song U2 sang and from a top-of-the-house vantage point the floor could not match.
The sequencing from the set list from a U2 concert which occurred several days earlier stayed the same for the group's Utah concert.  Changing a lineup flush with accompanying lights was likely a complex undertaking to say the least.  With the bigger tours, this is standard practice, sort of comparable to formula fiction.  There is a commercialized, mass appeal feel that contrasts starkly with the spontaneity of a gig playing at a venue like The Depot or The State Room, not to mention your garden variety house concert.  
Still, I wasn't disappointed by the lineup in the least and was on my feet most of the evening, dancing to familiar tunes like "Mysterious Ways" and "Beautiful Day."  In addition to the mostly fixed set list except for the insertion of Happy Birthday" to Bob Dylan on the occasion of his 70th birthday that evening, the crowd sang along to nearly every number.  In a smaller venue, it's rare that the crowd is as familiar with the band's music.  The amplification from the stage was enormous, sending huge volume to us at the opposite end of the stadium.
The crowd was jumping, dancing, and otherwise enlivened with fists in the air during the first five or so songs.  Dancing was a stadium-wide phenomenon, including for those of us in the cheap seats.  Filler conversation in between songs was minimal, but a few political messages were laced into the program.  The "power of one" message urging fans to let their voices be heard and make a difference gave me chills moreso than the cool night air.  Toward the end, Bono electrified the crowd with "Vertigo" and kept the momentum rolling through two encores, concluding with "With Or Without You" and "Moment of Surrender."
Friends who were in the general admission and VIP sections have graciously offered photographs which allowed me to live vicariously at the foot of the stage.  Their incredible shots fill in the gaps created by the seemingly endless chasm between the north endzone and Bono, proving that even or rather especially at concerts, it's all about location, location, location.
My friend Heidi and her boyfriend Kris, who provided the close-up pictures for this post, have followed U2 since the 1980s.  She noted that when she saw U2 in California, they played more songs, had three encores, and had a richer set list.  Still, a huge fan, she was not disappointed.  "It was an awesome night, perfect weather and, damn, those leather pants looked good from where I was standing."

Set List
Even Better Than The Real Thing
I Will Follow
Get On Your Boots
Mysterious Ways
Until The End of the World
All I Want Is You
Love Rescue Me
Happy Birthday
Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
Beautiful Day with Her Comes the Sun
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Miss Sarajevo
City Of Blinding Lights
I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Walk on
Aung San Suu Kyi Message
Where The Streets Have No Name with Blowin' In The Wind
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
With Or Without You
Moment Of Surrender

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