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U2 Tours (formerly part of AtU2): A Comprehensive Guide To U2’s Live Performance History
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by Jaye Free

The Dallas U2 concert was undeniably a spiritual experience. I wasnt sure I was going to go, mainly because of the arena, too-many-people, bad traffic-and-parking aspect, but Monday rolled around and there were $100 tickets in decent sections on StubHub.com so I decided to go. Section 222, front row, just slightly to the left of the sound board area on the floor, directly in line with the stage on the far end. Our seats were absolutely amazing. It looked like the nosebleed seats were entirely full even though there were empty seats around us; there were a lot of people standing just behind our section as well so I guess these groups didnt want to pony up the additional money for a slightly better seat.

I am a perpetual keeper of concert ticket stubs, and have amassed likely around 100 in the last 10 years. If I lined all of them up, not one of those shows would compare with Mondays extravaganza. The stage, set, lights, screens, colors the show was unforgettable, although I take issue with this in a minute. It was the music and the energy of the band that made the difference. Though I have loved Joshua Trees hits for decades, there is actually nothing like hearing Bono sing those lyrics in real time. For those of you who may have let this album be the soundtrack for your best vacation ever (to Vail, no less), you likely felt the same bittersweet longing for days gone by that I did when those first sweet notes of Still Havent Found What Im Looking For hit your ears.

The first thing I did on Tuesday morning was look up the Dallas Morning News review, which was one of the worst reviews of an extraordinary experience Ive ever read. Everyone is talking about the stadiums acoustics, and maybe deservedly so but Im one of those fans who really didnt care; I was watching U2 live for the first time in my life. With such a ridiculous offering from a professional journalist, I wanted to offer my own. Surely other people had the surreal and awe-inspiring experience that I did, one that I wont soon forget. I wish they would come back tonight and do it all again so I can soak more of it into my memory. But as I said, there were a couple of things I take issue with.

The first was Bono's persistent name-dropping. Was it really necessary for him to tell us that Tony Romo and Jamie Whitten were there? Did we care? I didnt. To the best of my knowledge everyone was there to see U2 not the Cowboys. At the end of the concert, Bono threw out another half-dozen or so names of Texans who are "making a difference" (or something like that) which I assume means "giving him money," and one of them is a guy I know who is not a nice person by general consensus. I realize when you ask for money you take it from the people that give it to you but to give that particular person a shout out left a bad taste in my mouth. It is a conundrum that the money of indecent people is helping the neediest nation in the world. Its an idea reflected in Bonos acknowledgement of Bushs role in getting aid to Africa, though we know he must not be an ardent supporter of the man.

My second complaint was the extravagance of the show. It seemed as if no expense -- no light, no high-fangled gadget, no bell or whistle was denied. It was an explosion of media and lights and showmanship, which Bono seemed to play down with his easy conversational chatter but when he came out for the second encore wearing a black jacket with red laser lights shooting out of it, I thought, Hm. I was not expecting that from Bono, patron of the poor and needy, advocate for the people who have nothing. He is one of the most famous rock stars of my generation and he deserves the fanfare he receives, but it cant have been his idea to wear a laser-lined leather jacket. (I hope.)

I expected a lot less emphasis on flash and gadgets and more emphasis on the music, which is all they needed to get to this point; not sure why it isnt still all they need. I got the uncomfortable feeling that U2 is at the whimsy of some massive marketing and PR engine that keeps whispering in their ears, More is better. If you were there you probably saw the lines of busses and 18 wheelers lined up after the show to haul the show to the next stop. I have no idea how the carbon footprint of this tour fits into Bonos worldview or how it possibly could, but I would love to have that conversation with him. Nevertheless, the bells and whistles were impressive, the set list was almost perfect, the band played with the energy and excitement that you imagine the first show did, but its clear that the band is allowing more pageantry than I would expect them to tolerate. I got the impression that U2 is not entirely what they portray themselves to be, or what I always thought they were, which is down-to-earth, thinking, stripped-down-to-the-real-thing, rock star poets who dont need gimmicks because they create music that has served as a centerpiece of our culture for two decades. Let the musicians who dont have that on their resume have the Claw.


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