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

U2 Vertigo Tour at Madison Square Garden, October 10, 2005

Call me crazy, but it had never occurred to me that in 2005, people in their thirties would feel compelled by the U2 Vertigo commercial for iPod to actually purchase the source album. And to then memorize its lyrics. And finally, to then sing those lyrics along with Bono at Madison Square Garden for three sold out evenings in early October. I can only count myself guilty of spending $169.50, plus an $11.00 service fee, for a ticket to the last of those three nights. As I now reflect on the concert, I will again encourage you to call me crazy. And, after struggling through six unfamiliar songs out of a twenty-four-song set, I will caution you to listen repeatedly to the most recent U2 album, How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, before deciding to hand $500 to a scalper on the bands fourth and final night at the Garden this Friday. Also be aware that the sound is a screaming muddle of incoherent noise. Wearing earplugs helps, but it also provides a clarity of listening that reveals the tedious banality of their songwriting throughout all phases of their career.

Bonos performance in general was the biggest disappointment of the evening. His winning remark, Thanks for giving us very happy lives, was, like his entire performance, obnoxious, arrogant, and off-putting. During One, he actually altered the lyrics to acknowledge that he sees himself as a Jesus figure. But, as has already been widely discussed on the internet, Mr. Superstar blew his voice out by showing off his Pavarotti imitation on Miss Sarajevo, then lost it completely during the second verse of Pride, and was a croaking embarrassment by With or Without You. Finally, his continual return to discussion of his world poverty cause was most unwelcome at a top-ticket rock concert. Given his supposed passion for this issue, it is unspeakably hypocritical for him to solicit his audience to pay such obscene ticket prices, rather than to charge a lowball ticket price and then encourage his fans to donate their affluence directly to his hopeless causes.

The material of other artists was frequently interpolated into the songs, with varying results. The only truly relevant and interesting choice was to end Bullet The Blue Sky with When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, making a plain and plausible connection between Bonos 1987 vision of America and our current state of war. Sunday Bloody Sunday, however, was just as generically political and angry as it was in the 80s, and the live-show ad-lib were so sick of it is still there, too. (Sick of what, exactly?)

At other times, songs were inappropriately related to political issues. One like Bonos anti-poverty foundation which bears its name was arbitrarily applied to world unity, when the lyrical content is actually about a familys response to AIDS. Where The Streets Have No Name was used to suggest a borderless planet with one religion, though the song is actually about nothing more than personal meandering and has no such weight. But surely the most repugnant moment of pandering was the dedication of Bad to Patti Smith, who Bono stated was in the audience and had opened his eyes to the economic plight of Africa. This dedication was presumably meant to be justified by the lyrics Im wide awake, though the song is certainly not about Africa, and his subsequent segue into Smiths People Have the Power was not only irrelevant, but crass.

The remaining toss-ins were simply of no significance or meaning, and deserve no more than a dismissive mention:
Break on Through by The Doors during The Electric Co. (clichd), Ole Man River during One (unfathomable), and Romeo Had Juliette by Lou Reed during Beautiful Day (wrong-headed).

Songs that were conspicuously absent included Gloria (given that such early nonsense as I Will Follow and The Electric Co. were included), New Years Day, Desire, All I Want Is You, Mysterious Ways, Even Better Than The Real Thing, and Stuck In A Moment. However, songs that we were mercifully spared included anything from Zooropa, Melon, or Pop.

I had expected that U2 would be the capstone of my recent surge of nostalgia concert-going, but I find that I must stand by my assertion that the top live act of the past three decades is Aerosmith, and that the top live comeback of the new millennium is Duran Duran. U2, I am sorry to say, must join Fleetwood Mac in the category of Avoid in Concert.

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