I have seen my excitement for the “Vertigo” tour wax and wane over the past months. I have declared my intention to attend and boycott on at least six different occasions since the release of the fantastic “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.” When crunch time hit I had neither the money nor the inclination to try getting tickets for the show in Atlanta.
And when the band announced a second show in Atlanta I was similarly nonplussed. There were no other options for me because two shows in Atlanta and two shows in Florida are the only stops in the southeastern United States on either U.S. leg. Apparently Nashville, Memphis, Birmingham, and New Orleans have the plague. No, wait. They do not. If they had the plague, Bono would want to save them and they might book a show in one of those towns.
Do not misunderstand me. I am still a U2 fan and I would love to see them again. But there are some sinister forces at work. The ticket prices are obscene, period. I do not want to hear all the U2 apologists defending this. I am not calling them sell-outs. I still love this band, but the ticket prices are not defensible. I think it is great Bono wants to save Africa but how about saving me a couple of dollars?
The band has played the first night of its long-awaited return to the stage and I have a few new issues beyond the itinerary and the ticket price:
The general admission situation is also being handled differently this tour according to at least one report. The diehards who showed up to the venue at the crack of down were rewarded with a chance to get the best seat in the house during the “Elevation” tour. Not anymore. Apparently the powers that be have changed this to a “luck of the draw” proposition. If a General Admission ticket turns red when it is scanned, the recipient is given the opportunity to go ‘inside the circle’ at the front of the stage. One of the selling points of the last tour was that the cheapest seats in the house were the best seats in the house and the devoted could have them. They may still be the cheapest but the faithful are being rewarded no longer.
And then there is the set list. Where to begin? How about with the beginning? The “Elevation” tour was opened with “Elevation.” This made sense. It is a good, loud, high energy song and it happens to be the namesake of the tour. The opening song of the “Vertigo” tour? You guessed it… “City of Blinding Lights.” Hold on, what the fuck? “City of Blinding Lights” is the best song on “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” and should be played live every night until the end of time. It should not be the opening song of this (the “VERTIGO”) tour or any other. It is a great song but it is not a show opener. And trying to segue from the elegant, anthemic sounds of “City of Blinding Light” into “Vertigo” has to be awkward.
And then things get really weird. The song selections from “The Joshua Tree” are all wrong. “With or Without You” has been retired but “Bullet the Blue Sky” has not? As much as I love “With or Without You” I am OK with it being mothballed. I love that “Running to Stand Still” has been revived. But “Bullet the Blue Sky” should be “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Why? Because after what they allowed Bruce Springsteen to do to it a scant few weeks ago at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame they owe us a pristine live version of this classic single. Besides, it is a great song that has not seen the light of day consistently in too long. And if not that one… shit… anything but “Bullet The Blue Sky” again. And that is not the worst part. They have stopped lighting the stage red before playing “Where the Streets Have No Name.” They might as well start entering the stage to “God Save the Queen.” Where is their sense of tradition? Have they not watched their own DVDs? Do they not realize just how much the crowd goes nuts when the red lights proclaim the coming of one of the best songs of their Hall of Fame career? They have replaced the red with an African flag. Here is an idea: light the African flag red!
The “Achtung Baby” choices are not quite as odd as “The Joshua Tree.” “Until the End of the World” has been retired (finally!!) but it has been replaced by “Zoo Station.” “Zoo Station” might have been great on the “Zoo TV” tour but it is not necessary on the “Vertigo” tour. “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” or “Mysterious Ways” would have all made more sense. “The Fly” is still part of the show and so is “One.”
“All That You Can’t Leave Behind” is not well represented either. “Beautiful Day” is a no-brainer and it is included. This is another song that should be played every night until the end of time. But instead of the wonderful “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out of” or “Kite” or “Walk On” we are treated to “Elevation” again. “Elevation” is a nice song but it hardly holds a candle to any of those other songs.
But there is still hope for me. I happen to have every CD officially released by U2 on my iPod. I can always turn my ultimate set list into a playlist which is a better option anyway. No lines for the bathroom. No $55 t-shirts (yes, they are selling t-shirts for $55). No four-hour drives. No Atlanta. No asshole calling for them to play “Freebird.” I can smoke in this venue. The beer will be cold and not served in a paper cup. This is starting to sound better by the minute. All I need is a red flashlight and a miniature African flag and I am all set.
1. CITY OF BLINDING LIGHTS
3. CRY/ELECTRIC CO.
4. AN CATH DUBH
5. INTO THE HEART
6. BEAUTIFUL DAY
7. NEW YEAR’S DAY
8. MIRACLE DRUG
9. SOMETIMES YOU CAN’T MAKE IT ON YOUR OWN
10. LOVE AND PEACE OR ELSE
11. SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY
12. BULET THE BLUE SKY
13. RUNNING TO STAND STILL
14. ZOO STATION
15. THE FLY
17. PRIDE IN THE NAME OF LOVE
18. WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME
20. ALL BECAUSE OF YOU
(set list courtesy of U2.com)