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Review of U2's 360 Show in Toronto

As a member of U2.com, I was privileged enough to have access to a live stream of one of their concerts on the first leg of the tour in Europe (which I am listening to right now, just to get into the mood here), and had a pretty good idea of what I was going to be hearing.  Of course, hearing is only half of the show, and in U2’s case, it’s really only about a quarter of the show.  (You can read my review of their most recent album here.)  If anyone reading this has been fortunate enough to go to one of the U2 360 shows this tour or has even seen pictures, you know how massive of an undertaking this tour is.  It’s no Pop Mart, to be sure.  And I suppose we should be thankful for small blessings.  While Pop Mart was definitely a wonder to behold (and a goddamned circus) it’s a really, really good thing they didn’t try anything like that again.

From the opening song it was clear that I was at what can only be called a rock and roll show.  “Breathe” and “No Line” gave way to U2’s newest rock anthem “Get On Your Boots,” which in turn delivered The Edge’s liquid opening of “Magnificent,” which actually yielded one of my favorite moments in the concert.  And while I was all weepy, weepy, kind of pathetic fanboy from the very beginning of the concert, it wasn’t until “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” that I realized that everyone at that show felt the same way.  I will probably never be able to properly describe the sound of 60,000 people singing over the band for the opening of “Still Haven’t Found.”  There were the oldies, but goodies, and as much as I didn’t really enjoy listening to the remix of “I’ll Go Crazy” that I heard during the concert that U2 streamed from Sheffield, being there to actually see the setup and participate with the band added an whole new level to the song.

This concert also marked one of the first live performances of "Your Blue Room" off of the heavily Brian Eno influenced album, Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1, an experimental album that left a sour taste in the mouths of some of U2's fans and some of the band members themselves.  What was exceptional about this performance was that U2 convinced an astronaut at the International Space Station to pre-record a message that was played during the song.

Now, I don’t want to spend much time describing the setup for the show because you can probably do a pretty good Google image search for yourself, but Toronto offered something that no other city will be able to benefit from, the CN Tower.  Standing 1,815.4 feet tall, the CN Tower is the third tallest freestanding structure on the planet, and it stands right next to Roger’s Centre.  But that’s not the best part.  It also has one of the most extensive lighting systems for any like structure and it’s all controlled by computer.  U2 decided that, since the Roger’s Centre roof was opened, they would pirate the lighting system for a night and essentially use the CN Tower as part of their light show.  They literally played the city (sorry David Cross).  There are a few YouTube videos of the U2 controlled CN Tower in action, but as with most things YouTube, the quality and the brevity of the video make for pretty sub-par viewing.

Then there was the encore.  Really, they could have played only one song and I probably would have been just as happy.  “I remember, when we could sleep on stones. / Now we lie together, in whispers and moans / When I was so messed up, and I heard opera in my head / Your love was a light bulb, hanging over my bed.”  These incredibly tight lyrics, combined with the very best of The Edge’s haunting space guitar, one of the greatest of Adam Clayton’s bass lines, and yet another example of Larry Mullen’s ability to turn a staccato drum line into something of unimaginable beauty made for an incredible live performance.  “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” has always been one of the most underappreciated U2 songs in the canon and true to form, U2 utilized their lightshow and stage to the fullest for this completely captivating song.  Bono wore a jacket covered in red laser lights and sang from an LED covered steering wheel-cum-microphone that just happened to be reinforced enough to hold his weight as he swung back and forth over the crowd.  The song was preceded by a computerized voice reading part of W. H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues,” which would have perhaps been over the top had not the words to the poem been so stunningly appropriate for the song.  (The end of U2’s recent SNL performance included the very beginning of this song, but the full song was cut off because the credits had finished rolling.  Here is one of the only clips I’ve found that NBC hasn’t had removed by threat of lawsuit.)

And I can’t really say any more.  Even now, as I read over what I have written here I realize that I really can in no way tell you how absolutely stunning this show was to behold.  Let it be sufficient for me to say that, as far as stadium tours go, there are few bands that are able to fill a stadium not just with fans, but with themselves as well.  U2 have that rare ability.

Here is the set list from the band’s performance at Roger’s Centre (formerly the SkyDome) on September 16, 2009:

  1. Breathe
  2. No Line On The Horizon
  3. Get On Your Boots
  4. Magnificent
  5. Beautiful Day / Alison (snippet)
  6. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / Stand By Me (snippet)
  7. Elevation
  8. Your Blue Room
  9. Unknown Caller
  10. Until The End Of The World
  11. Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
  12. The Unforgettable Fire
  13. City Of Blinding Lights
  14. Vertigo / Pump It Up (snippet)
  15. I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight / Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough (snippet)
  16. Sunday Bloody Sunday / Oliver's Army (snippet)
  17. MLK
  18. Walk On
  19. One / Amazing Grace (snippet)
  20. Where The Streets Have No Name
  21. Encore: Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
  22. Encore: With Or Without You
  23. Encore: Moment of Surrender