I hazard a guess that for those of us in the Southern California metropolis this concert will go down as one of those "where were you?" moments. Seriously, there was something like 100,000 people there and by the time I end this entry into my blog the number will have grown. This being the ninth time I have seen them (spanning two states and two countries beginning with Zoo TV and the subsequent Zooropa tours, through PopMart, to Elevation and Vertigo to this incarnation of the 360 tour), I have a sense that I can call myself a U2 live expert in grading their shows. So, in no particular order, are my thoughts;
1) THE CLAW was impressive, ugly, revolutionary and yet strangely irrelevant by the end of the evening. First glance had it reaching beyond the top of the bowl and the sheer size of it was mighty cool. But once the band hit the stage it was not that different from other shows. In fact, the giant Zoo TV set was far cooler.
2) The Rose Bowl was not equipped for that many people. I say this knowing that no venue in America is really ready for this sort of collection of humanity. It was just too much. The wait to park was long, the lines for food were long (and they ran out at one point), and the number of people compacted the whole place.
3) There is no doubt that last night's version of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" was the best I have heard. For some reason the song meshed with the theme of the show of space and travel and time in a perfect symmetry.
4) The set list was certainly a change from past tours. Given the more solemn nature of the new record, the greatest hits selections leaned to the more somber. "The Unforgettable Fire" was a great choice from my standpoint, but I would imagine people would have rather had "Pride" instead.
5) Hearing "With or Without You" for the first time live was great. If I had had my way they would have ended with that instead of "Moment of Surrender". The later song felt more like a coda than a culmination.
6) My one tangent on the people there - I feel that about 3/4 of the crowd was there to see the band. the other quarter was more interested in beer, taking pictures of themselves and chatting with friends. Why would you pay in excess of $100.00 to do something you can do at any bar in LA for half that? I mean, people can do whatever they want but the number of people who spent the night traveling up and down the aisles was staggering. I bet there are 20,00o or so people who couldn't recall anything off the set list except maybe "Streets" and "Elevation".
7) "Vertigo" and "Elevation" have matured very well since their concert debuts and now have a firm place in the live show. I could say the same for "Get On Your Boots" but I think the pacing on it needs a bit or work. I could see that being a nice three song middle section next time out.
8) "Breathe" was a great opening. Other than that I thought the new stuff suffered by comparison. Maybe it's because a lot of people didn't know the material, but it seemed like Bono was working a little harder during those songs. "Unknown Caller" even came with subtitles so people could sing along; that never used to be necessary.
9) At this point in their careers, U2 can pretty much get away with anything but there is no forgiving them for torturing us with the BLACK EYED PEAS. Seriously, this is the same band that once had both PUBLIC ENEMY and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE open for them on US tours and now we get this crap. Not even Slash could redeem them (or at least that's what I heard from my hour long wait at the snack bar).
10) "Beautiful Day" and "Where The Streets Have No Name" illustrate the greatness of this band. Say what you want about Bono and his sanctimony filtered through self effacing irony or the sheer pretentiousness of playing to that many people (not including the Youtube viewing audience as well), they still play live better than anyone else I have seen. They have the unique ability to bring people to a place that is only possible through music. A place of both spirituality and soulfulness. A place where for a few moments everyone in that place feel something magical. Every time I have heard "Streets" I have felt that. The way it builds and builds them releases the energy and force of the song is worth the price of admission alone. It's why I will keep coming back again and again, without any trace of guilt that I am a fan of the biggest rock band in the world.
Click here and here for a set from Paris off the European leg of this tour. It's a pretty good approximation of what last night sounded like. Thanks to He's A Whore for the set.
A Note about my soon to be born child: How cool is it that during the height of "Streets" he was kicking up a storm. Does that boy know what good music is or what?
A Note About My Wife: My wife is currently 8 months pregnant with our third child. By day she takes care of twin 3 1/2 old boys while lugging around a bowling ball where her stomach used to be. And yet, there she was, sitting on a hard bench with half a spilled beer on her lap from the drunk behind us, with swollen ankles and aches and pains throughout her body from the 1/2 mile trek to get in. She endured because, while she is a fan of the band, she knew it was important to me. She tolerated the pain and agony that comes with being upright for five hours so that I could experience U2 one more time. In my mind, she has never been more beautiful to me then she was last night. To quote Bono:
"And I miss you when you're not around, I'm getting ready to leave the ground, oh you look so beautiful tonight, in the city of blinding lights..."