-review by Rob Dunne, Special to Earvolution.com
I have seen U2 play live many, many times. Last weekend in Dublin, I saw the best U2 performance I have ever been at.
The excitement in the city on Saturday evening was palpable. Thousands of people made their way to the venue, beers in hand, Stetsons on head (the scalpers made a killing with those ‘Bono’ hats). The crowd was literally from all over the World – Aussies were racing pints with the Irish, Asians were watching the Aussies and the Irish race pints and Americans were recounting all the U2 gigs they had been to already in the US. The inimitable Dublin banter was flying back and forth as we closed in on Croke Park – a World-class stadium that holds about 85,000.
Just before 9:00 p.m., the four members of U2 sauntered on stage almost modestly acknowledging the crowd. Their understated entrance was countered by a frenzied reaction from the crowd as the boys took their places. It was still daylight in Dublin when U2 launched into Vertigo. Amazing ! I have never felt energy like it at a gig. As soon as the show kicked off, I knew it was going to be something very special.
U2 played Out of Control, a rarity so far on this tour, and then reverted to the tour play-list – Electric Co., Elevation (great stripped down version), New Year’s Day and Beautiful Day. Then, we were treated to the first true highlight of the show – Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. This is U2 at their finest. And when the crowd started singing that one-line chorus at the end, the only thing that could quell the gospel chanting was The Edge’s guitar on All I Want Is You. At this point, I was nervous that the show was peaking too soon. How could U2 sustain it ?
As the crowd bellowed “All I want is Yooooouuuuuuu!” and the sun finally went down, U2 turned on the lights. The video curtain beamed out across ‘Croker’ as U2 started City of Blinding Lights. The band and Croke Park had become one.
From the new album, the highlights in the show were Bono’s emotional tribute to his father with Sometimes You Can’t make it On Your Own and the thumping rendition of Love and Peace Or Else – Larry’s hesitant (all the girls thought he was “sooooo cute”) moment in the spotlight. There was a perfect segue between Love and Peace and Sunday Bloody Sunday, another highlight. Bono was in full soapbox mode as he wiped those tears away and ripped through Bullet the Blue Sky and Pride.
But for me, the two standout moments during this part of the show were Running to Stand Still – simple and beautiful – and Where The Streets Have No Name – the crowd went nuts during that song ! (even Bono said “that was incredible” afterwards).
They finished the show with One which has secured itself as a U2 classic and Bono used the altruistic platform to promote all things good for mankind (you have to give him some latitude after that performance). U2 left the stage.
We caught our breath and then the Encore….
U2 transported us back to Zoo TV and the crowd were back in a frenzy. The opening rift of Zoo Station accompanied Bono as he marched down the walkway like some sort of rock n’ roll nazi. After The Fly and Mysterious Ways, Bono decided to have some fun with the crowd. He brought a guy up on stage – Matt from Canada, as I remember it – and let him play guitar on Party Girl. Then it was back to pure U2 with All Because of You (superb live version).
Finally, U2 brought the show to an end. They played an absolutely beautiful version of Yahweh – in my opinion, not a standout track from the album, but live and stripped down, it sounds like a Bob Marley ballad. Bono’s aching voice flowed over Croke Park and as he begged God to “keep this city safe,” the crowd cold only beg for more.