Sunday, July 3, 2011
Finally, finally, after months of hype, discussion, predictions, and anticipation, the U2 show was upon us. The announcement was made last fall, I got a ticket for Christmas, and it seemed like July 2 was eons away. The build up for this show was exactly as it should have been. Covered on the news, in the local papers, and around every bar in town, it was all you heard about. I even walked through Vanderbilt's campus the day before the show just to experience the whole huge scene at the stadium. It was like a bee hive, with workers all buzzing about doing everything from setting out trash cans and lining up Port-Os, to hanging and testing light rigs. Finally for the first time since 1981, U2 was coming back to Nashville.
Within about 15 minutes of arriving on the field, Florence and the Machine came out to open the show. Florence was adorned in a flowy green leotard dress and she wailed and flailed about the stage like a ballerina fairy while the Machine banged out their dancy beats. And by the way, the harp player needs to look into some P-90s if he expects anyone in a football stadium to hear what he's playing. Come on man, plug that thing in and crank it. Opening for the biggest rock band ever has to be tough, and they held the anxious crowd as well as could be expected, but it wasn't my thing.
We started to get our first taste of the sermon when during the changeover, all sorts of statistics scrolled across the huge screen above the stage. As the house music went down and Bowie's "Major Tom" came on, a video played of the four members of the band approaching the stage like assassins in a Tarantino movie. They came on and waved, and launched into the crazy intro to "Even Better Than the Real Thing", and did three more in a row from Achtung Baby before hitting us with some old school "I Will Follow". At this point I was just getting to be able to focus on the concert. There was so much going on it was hard to focus on the four actual guys playing the music. There was the huge 360 degree screen showing everything from the Hollywood grade video presentation to writhing naked lady silhouettes. There was the four caterpillar-like legs that arched over the stage, and there was the light tower that rose up from the center.
As the show kept rolling, we were treated to some pretty special moments. Coming out of the end of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", Bono whispered into Edge's ear and he grinned and started strumming "The Wanderer", the song co-written by Johnny Cash. I'm pretty sure that's the first time that's ever happened in concert, and a fitting tribute to one of the heroes in our town. An acoustic "Stay ( )" and a strong "Pride ( )" also made great showings, and a brief message from space is always nice at a concert.
About the time Bono started preaching in "Sunday Bloody Sunday", my little sister and I came across wristbands that granted us access to the "inner circle" right by the stage. Having grown up watching Rattle And Hum, we had to jump on the opportunity to be the fans right up front singing along and pumping our fists. It was surreal to be close enough to see The Edge surgically employ all his guitar gadgets, and having the perfect view of Larry Mullen Jr. while he played "With Or Without You" gave me chills. Bono is huge from 50 yards away but up close, his dramatics really hit you when you can actually see the veins bulging in his head.
There were a series of encores that included "One", "Where the Streets Have No Name", and "With Or Without You", and they ended the planned portion of the show with "Moment Of Surrender". I stood there thinking "there is no way that was the last song. Come on, a slow ballad from the new stuff? No way." Then, while exiting the stage, Bono turned to someone in the front row and invited him onstage and grabbed a guitar for him to play "All I Want Is You". The band all came back and ended the show perfectly, with the song that is synonymous with things ending. As Bono hugged the starry eyed guitarist, and actually gave him hollow body archtop, they all waved one more time and left for good, ending one of the most sophisticated, blown out, yet intimate shows Nashville has ever seen.
This show definitely ranks up near the top with Paul Mccartney. There was that same great anticipation of which next hit were you going to get, as well as the overwhelming nostalgia that came with it. Having my baby sister on one side, and a buddy who is known for having the best rock and roll face in town on the other, this show couldn't have been any better. The security was relaxed and the crowd covered the entire spectrum of U2 fan, from dads and daughters to gen-xers to tie died hippies. We all were witness to this event, upon which Nashvillians will be opining for generations to come.
Do yourself a favor and click here for the complete setlist and a few other notes.