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by Michael West

Manchester 1 Review

My friend and I drove up from Derby and got into Manchester about 4.30pm. Went for a quick drink in a nearby pub and then headed over to the arena. I was quite disconcerted to see the amount of piss artists in residence but as long as they weren't sitting near me I was happy. What's the point in getting out of your face before a concert!? Anyway, for the first out of all eight shows in England, Jon and I took our seats. Directly behind the stage tonight, about halfway back. I thought it was an excellent view. Kellis came on as support and, personally, I thought she was God awful tonight. Fair enough, U2 have a wide demographic, but it isn't that fucking wide! Also, at the tender age of 21 I think I was probably the youngest dude in there tonight :-) Time kept creeping by and then at around 8.45pm Sgt. Peppers came over the PA. I looked and Jon and we both were like "aaaarrrgghh!!". I literally felt physically sick, I was that excited!!

As soon as the Influx mix of Elevation hit I said to Jon "fuck this, I'm UP!" - there is no way I'm sitting down to watch the boys! They came out and the arena went beserk! The atmosphere was fantastic all the way through. They went into Elevation and the Heart was jumping up and down so high I thought they were going to bounce right out of there. Great sight. Great rocking version. Into Beautiful Day and I felt the first pinpricks of tears. I'm a fairly emotional person anyway, so at this stage I was surprised I hadn't degenerated into a blubbering, quivering mess. I just thought "damn right it's a beautiful day - I'm watching U2 in front of 19,000 raucous fans!". Until The End Of The World started with Bono saying "Jesus this is Judas!". I think this is a fantastic live song. The ending with Bono and Edge doing the whole matador/bull thing is wonderful to watch. If I wasn't wary of looking an even bigger idiot than I do normally I would like to play air drums and air guitar for this tune! lol.

Expected New Years Day next and was very pleasantly surprised to hear Disco/Staring. I appreciate that they have to play old songs to cater for the whole audience but that doesn't stop them sounding pretty tired on occasions to my ears. This sing rocked superbly and I enjoyed every second of it. Jon's pick for song of the night. Up next was Kite. Bono prefaced it with a little speech about how his father, Bob, had only a few days left. I knew it was going to be a special version after that and was not disappointed. Felt more pinpricks of tears again here. I was very pleased to see that this song sounds oceans better live than on the record, in my opinion. So full, rich and powerful! Then it was into New York. Again, this sounds FAR better live than on ATYCLB. I really enjoyed hearing this. Fantastic rocking version. Edge was on FANTASTIC form tonight. Funking it up and nailing everything in sight! I Will Follow started off great and then about halfway through the song I completely lost the plot and went beserk! Brilliant version tonight with great audience participation. Enjoyed it much more than I thought I would do.

Sunday Bloody Sunday got the crowd ridiculously fervent. I think this song can appear laboured unless Bono is in a passionate mood and, thankfully, he had a bee in his bonnet about the G8 summit and this improved the song immeasurably. Stuck was a nice enough version that had the crowd singing along but it doesn't do that much for me I have to say. In A Little While is still growing on me at the moment and tonight's version was perhaps the sole minor disappointment for me (and that is being very harsh). I thought Bono was struggling with his voice a little bit and was leaving the falsetto parts to Edge. Jon reckoned that the B-man had something in his nose and that's why he was having a few problems. Adam and Larry joined them at the top of the heart and Desire followed. Crowd loved every second of it but I can do without it to be honest with you. Pleasant to hear but I think these acoustic/semi-acoustic parts of the show could contain much more variety. Stay was absolutely beautiful - one of the true treats of this tour I believe. Felt a few tears as the lyircs remind me of a girl I know.

Bad came next and Jon turned to me and said "I think I'm going to fucking cry!" (he had earlier commented that he was most looking forward to seeing this one) - I think my reply was "I already am, mate!". Fantastic to hear live! Bono let the crowd do the "woooo's" towards the end. If I'm going to be critical of U2 for a moment I would say that this song, along with the reworked version of The Fly, should be in the set EVERY NIGHT!! My all-time favourite song came next and, as always, Streets was sublime. My tear ducts were getting a work-out tonight! Crowd went into orbit and virtually ripped the roof off. Mysterious Ways was a lot better than I thought it would be - much better than the pedestrian and plodding Popmart version in my opinion. Crowd, still on a high after Streets, were belting out every word. Have to say, Edge NAILED his guitar solo tonight!! The best solo I have ever heard for that song - and this is coming from a well-versed and hyper-critical fan in this particular sphere.

I was begging to hear The Fly and as soon as the intro started I was LOVING it!! This was song of the night for me by some distance. I am getting chills running up and down my spine right now just thinking about it. Bono eases into the song and then it's a "shhhhh HUH!" and THAT guitar kicks in! Bono sometimes asks "is this rock and roll!?" at the end of UTEOTW - THIS is fucking rock and roll, baby!! Some of Larry's finest drumming on this song I think. I adored every second of this song and am counting the minutes until Tuesday when I hopefully get to hear it again in Birmingham.

Bullet kicked off the encores and sounded both fresh and powerful. Before the tour started both Jon and I commented that it would be nice to see them drop both this and Pride from the every night set. I stick by my belief about Pride but will definitely stand corrected on Bullet! Any song that invigorates Bono is a good thing in my book as it is always a spell-binding sight to watch him rap and cavort his way around the stage. His stage presence is second to none in my opinion. With Or Without You is always nice to hear but I think it's sounding quite laboured these days. The band seem bored with it and appear to be going through the motions for the fans. I'd like to see them rotate it in and out of the set personally. However, Jon commented that it is "one of the best songs ever" and he has a point :-)

One was a great version, dedicated to Noel Gallagher and his missus (I can just about stand Noel - Liam is one of life's great tossers). I think the "Do you hear me calling?" part is one of music's finest moments and felt a few more tears when this came around. Full version Wake Up Dead Man followed, obviously a nod towards Bono's dad. A very touching and poignant moment. Walk On closed out the show. I love the album version but I think the live cut is quite a different beast. Certainly not worse, but definitely different. The word I came away thinking about it was "anthemic" (is that even a word?).

I had a feeling before my series of shows that Manchester was going to be VERY difficult to beat - I stand by that today. They are obviously very tight as a band and Bono is in fine fettle. Manchester crowds are always hard to beat and I'm hoping that Birmingham and London at least approach the atmospheres generated at the weekend. I thought Bono's voice was superb tonight, the mix was very clear and the set list, though standard, was superb. The best show I've ever seen (and I've seen some good ones).

9/10 - Have to leave some room for improvement!

And so ends one fairly long and no doubt awful review - get used to it, folks, I'm doing the same rigmarole for all the English shows :-)

Mike West


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