Reviewed by Justine Manzano
There are two types of good music. One type is the kind that you play on your CD player, bop around to, enjoy, and know for a fact you have gotten all that you can out of the artist. They make listening music—they don’t make an experience. Then, there is the other type of music. The bands that make this kind of music are the ones you want to know everything about, the ones you fight for when the concert tickets are selling out. The legendary U2, is one of those bands—they make an experience.
Anybody who was in New York on Saturday night, October 10, 2005 could tell you that it wasn’t the best night for a concert. Torrential rain storms will normally put a concert go'er out of the mood. Soggy chairs that have no elbow room to begin with are not the most comfy place to be when you want to enjoy yourself. I was still excited, despite the soggy mess that I was, because I was going to see U2.
The opening band was Keane, an English band with a small-time radio release entitled Somewhere Only We Know. This song, among others was performed during their set. Unfortunately for the audience, they were more like the first band I mentioned in the beginning of this article. A nice band to sway to, but they really had no performance power. They were just there, and the people in my row talked through most of their performance, which was just a shame because they were not without talent.
After the intermission, one by one, you could see the genius’ that make up U2 appear on the stage. Larry Mullen, seated behind the drums, and Adam Clayton and The Edge, bass and guitar respectively slung over their shoulders. And then…Bono, the lead singer. And no one can just walk onto the stage like Bono. When the music starts, it’s with The City of Blinding Lights off of the album they are currently touring, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, which was no surprise, because it’s a song about New York. This was quickly followed up by Vertigo. Both songs were rousing performances and we got to see that the lighting would be interesting for the rest of the night as the lights that surrounded the band, looking like beaded curtains, flared off in different colors and more lights lit up the stage in the familiar concentric circles found all over anything having to do with the song, Vertigo.
U2 had no intention of sticking to the album they were touring. It must be something about understanding your fans well, a factor so rarely picked up on by other bands who are “tired of playing the same songs over and over". U2 seems to never get tired as they launch themselves into renditions of Elevation from their previous album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind and follow that up with I Will Follow, a song off of their very first album, Boy from 1980.
Bono then stopped the momentum of the concert to grab an audience member's cell phone, called a friend and asked the crowd to sing Happy Birthday, which we all obligingly did. He then went on to sing more songs from across the band’s career including All I Want Is You and Beautiful Day.
The next song, Miracle Drug was introduced with a dedication to a Dr. Alan Rosenthal. This was followed up by album favorite, Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own, a song written by Bono in dedication to his father who passed away in 2001. Then came Love And Peace Or Else, a song that questions the war in Iraq, followed cleverly by Sunday Bloody Sunday, a song U2 still claims was never meant to make a political statement (yeah, okay...) and, in keeping with the war theme, Bullet The Blue Sky and Miss Sarajevo, a song that the band recorded with Luciano Pavarotti. After explaining the touching story behind the song, Bono explained that Mr. Pavarotti couldn’t be there that night, but he could. Then, he proceeded to sing Pavarotti’s parts of the song with enthusiasm and surprising skill. Still keeping in theme, he followed this song up with Human Rights, Pride In The Name Of Love, and Where The Streets Have No Name.
Then, Bono asked his audience to take out their cell phones and we all did, holding them up like lighters as the beginning notes of the classic One began to play. He then asked that those who could donate to The One Campaign, a charity created to fight poverty and AIDS and announced a special guest singer for One—Mary J. Blige, who sang the hell out of the already amazing song. Having reached a high point for the evening so far, as Mary J.’s performance was met with thunderous applause, U2 took a set break.
When they went up again, it was with a calm tranquility, performing For The First Time. On a whim of Bono’s, they followed this with Wild Horses. With Or Without You proceeded with Bono, as he always does, pulling two women and then, a little more surprisingly, a man, up onto the stage and hugging and dancing with them. The women predictably melted into mush. The man, danced right along with Bono. It was another great moment which seemed to herald another break.
Again returning from their slight costume changes, U2 started this set off with the energetic beats of All Because Of You, returning to songs from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Following this was the bonus track of the album (and my personal favorite) the upbeat and oddly rhythmed Fast Cars. They followed up, again on a whim from Bono, with Original of The Species. And then, just as we’d known it was beginning, we knew it was time to go. From the first chords of 40, it seemed everyone knew, even those that had never been to a U2 concert. It is well-known to fans that 40 almost always closes U2 concerts, and this time was no exception.
As I repeatedly chanted the final line of the song with the rest of my fellow U2 fans, “How long to sing this song?”, the members of U2 left the stage one by one, and I realized that this evening, which had been a blast, was over. We’d gone through at least one song in all of U2’s ample discography, we’d gone from hearing Bono explain to us that, “The Irish have many talents. Dancing is not one of them,” even as he danced around the stage, to watching the band go. We’d had so much fun, and I realized that their songs sound just as good live as they do on the CD—and the band made 2 hours of their music so incredibly entertaining. By 11:30 PM, I had gone from a casual U2 fan to a true devotee. Even on the stairs of Madison Square Garden, that final chant continued.