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by thomas harbinson

This American's Memorial Day weekend in Montreal was to climax with the u2 concert on Monday. While my fiance had never seen her favorite band live, I've seen them since the Unforgetable Fire days at everything from the 4th row to nose bleeds, arenas and stadiums, usually catching 3 shows per tour. For reference our seats were located about 2 tiers up in the 1pm position looking at the heart. As the ticket said the derriere section.

First, PJ Harvey was quite awful. Partly due to the sound system that I hoped would clean up for the main event: it didn't. As another reviewer states, you could only hear the vocal when you put fingers in your ears to minimize the distortion. Everyone surrounding my seat felt the same way.

For the main event: The band looked tired. Perhaps this explains other comments about the lack of movement by various band members. Bono's voice did fail slightly, even asking the Edge to help him finish at one point. It was great to see them interact with the non-verbal cues to end songs, etc.

I have the fortune of following the web's tidbits and knew some of what to expect with the staging. I was very dissappointed. If you have rear seats, exchange them. When the screens came up for MysWays, I assume a belly dancer was there? Then there was the WhereTheStreetHaveNoName screen rise which I assume was flames? The whole rear section was disassociated from the rest of the crowd, especially witnessed when someone was talking and the rest of the arena seemed entranced. Now I know that it was Charlton Heston by what I've read from others, but everyone around me was looking at one another with the "what's going on?" look.

The large crowd association/bond creation is a difficult trick that u2 often pulls off - except tonite. The spotlight on seating sections is old, the passing of items (irish flag) from the upper reaches done many times, and bringing someone on stage just plain. How many of you at various shows in the old days remember someone from the audience playing guitar? They all now seem contrived.

Variety sometimes comes with bantor, but there was only a short message about encouraging drug companies to supply the hiv/aids prescriptions which some in the heart area recognized was a root issue in the jubilee cause and chose the moment to raise a banner to that effect. A few other moments of non-music verbage but very very little talking overall.

I guess I should touch some positives: The show was in a doldrum until SBS which then kicked it up a notch. The usual time for reference to the Ramones was interesting as Bono and Edge seemed unsure what they were going to do next. The b/w projector screens were well focused on the drumming hands of Larry and the strumming hands of Edge at meaningful moments.

I still don't quite understand why so many seemed to have a need for Marijuana to accentuate the senses, especially given U2's comments on drug use. The playing of Bad would have been poignent more than once.

The difference between my reaction and that of the first-time show for my fiancee was striking, and I think it also comes across in these reviews with those of similar differential experiences. They could have played half the time, flubbed lyrics and she would have enjoyed it because she saw them. I was looking for the passion. On this night, it wasn't there.

Perhaps these are small media markets where they are trying other things in preparation for the HBO taping? Overall, slightly disappointed, yet hopeful for more in Albany.

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