Saturday, August 15, 2009

U2 at Wembley!

I’ve always been a fan of U2 and was lucky enough to get tickets for the first of two 360 Tour concerts in London this month. My husband does not share my taste in music, so while he went to the pub with friends, my friend Nick and I were among the record crowd of almost 90,000 packed into the new Wembley Stadium last night. Wembley is so massive an intimate concert atmosphere is impossible to achieve unless you are prepared to queue up for 11 hours, as some of the audience did, to get close to the stage. From my seat in the arena the sound quality was muffled at times, probably because the stadium roof was partially closed, and although I had a terrific view, the stage seemed a great distance away.

But the incredible stageshow compensated: the amazing claw-shaped 360 degree set incorporates a huge video screen with masses of speakers, lights and two rotating bridges, and the whole thing looks like a giant green and orange spacecraft. Elbow, the support band, provided a great warm up and I really enjoyed their performance – they are from Manchester and their music is definitely worth checking out. The staging came to life as the U2 concert began. Space Oddity by David Bowie boomed out “Ground Control to Major Tom” as the huge “spacecraft” belched smoke and lights and a NASA-like countdown began.

U2 were brilliant, opening with “Breathe” and performing songs from their latest album as well as lots of old favourites, like “Pride”, “Where the Streets Have No Name”, my personal favourite “One”,” Mysterious Ways”, and “With or Without You”. The stage was incredible throughout, changing from blinding white light to darkness to amazing colours in fractions of a second, with constantly manipulated and distorted live video projections.

It wouldn’t be a U2 concert without a political statement or two, and the politics were not forgotten last night – there was a video interview with Desmond Tutu and the band dedicated the song “Walk on” in a moving tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratically elected leader of Burma, who has spent most of the last 20 years under house arrest.

Other highlights for me were the audience taking over the vocals at the opening of I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, and Bono reminiscing about his first visit to London: “I slept on Waterloo Station as an 18 year old with a demo of our song Out of Control, the city's been good to us”. A fantastic night – my ears are still ringing!

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