Gig reviews

U2 (live in Dublin)

Jul 27

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Monday, July 27, 2009  RssIcon

U2 live in Croke Park, Dublin

U2 Croke Park DublinReview Snapshot: Well what's more fun than 80,000 people chanting anthems in Ireland's sporting Mecca on a summer's evening? A lot if you read the papers this week. Despite worries about the stage not being fully utilised, the prospect of preaching from "St Bono's Book of Glib", and an album still seeking its place in the wider public's consciousness; it was a blistering performance musically, if a little short. U2 seized the day and won out in the end. 

The Cluas Verdict? 7.5 out of 10

Full Review:

Are U2 the biggest and best band in the world? Are they a corporate entity living on past glory? Or are they an incredible group of perennial live performers who don't know when to quit trying to be relevant and just enjoy the show? The answer is probably a little of each of the above. This reviewer doesn't believe the much written garbage from certain elements of the Irish media who slate the latest offering as useless. No Line on the Horizon is not without its merits and contains a number of tunes that could live comfortably with any of their contemporaries. 

The crowd are predictably various in age. It makes for an interesting atmosphere. There is a large multinational presence with flags from all corners in the crowd. U2 are global, like no other. The first thing that struck this reviewer was the impressive stage structure. The gargantuan orange fingers of the "Claw" jutted out of different points in the crowd.  Unfortunately the second thing that struck me was the empty grey concrete stand of the Hill behind the stage. Despite what others may say, it did take away from the aesthetics and visual impact of the stage structure, especially if you had a pitch vantage. 

Dublin's four most famous living people take to the stage at 8.50. "Breathe" kicks off the night. It's an energetic and curious opener. The song itself is average on the record, but as with U2, live it gets a new lease of life. Plus, Bono's voice is in great nick. The title track from the new record follows. From a personal point of view, this should have been a single from the record. It's in the chorus of "No Line..." that the crowd starts to buzz. Admittedly there isn't very much "singing along", indicating the intentions of the crowd to hear the choice cuts from the U2 songbook. 

"Get on your Boots" while probably not one of the bands strongest hits, gets a boost live. People are jumping. Its meandering guitar riff and thumping rhythm get the capacity crowd going. "Magnificent" is up next and as widely perceived as the highest point on the new record it goes down a storm. It's clear the band are extremely well rehearsed and there are no hitches. Bono's voice comes to the fore and there is a sense of purpose in his voice. "I was born to sing for you" he says and the fans believe it. 

U2 have never been a band to shirk from selling their wares, and have the guts to try new things. Hence the opening four tracks coming from the Luke-warm received (critically) new album. It's sort of ironic that the next track "Beautiful Day" is the song that brought the band back in from the half empty stadiums of the POP tour.

Its infectious melody lifts the spirits of everyone there and it is indeed, beautiful! 

"This song is dedicated to Sinead O Connor", Bono says as the Edge lays the opening wah wah lick of "Mysterious Ways". The entire stadium goes nuts. Taken from the band's richest phase creatively it reminds everyone of why U2 are history makers. 

Bono even serenades a young Chilean fan who asks cheekily where he lives…."It's in Kiliney, speak to the missus, she's very understanding" he says to laughter and cheers. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" begins and falls into "Stand By Me". The atmosphere is beginning to peak. It's an 80,000 plus karaoke session. "Angel of Harlem" with a hint of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop T'il You Get Enough" continues the mass sing along. "In A Little While", a gem from "All You Cant Leave Behind" rings out. It's a beautiful little tune and it leads into the loudest screams of the night. "The Unforgettable Fire" burns a hole in the night sky. It's a poignant moment for many older members of the crowd. It's impressive stuff. Bono is in full flight. The ramps at the sides of the stage are used to full effect. "City of Blinding Lights" and "Vertigo" follow with a bongo ridden remix of "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight".  

The stadium was electric. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is rung out to the visuals of protests in Iran. The fans go wild. It's a wonderful song and the most popular one of the night so far. Bono ad libs "Rock The Kasbah" through the end of the song which gives it added punch.

And that's when it happened. One hour and twenty minutes in, and Rock Star Bono took a breather for a cigar and a rum and coke while St. Bono emerged. Every charity this side of Rio was sound, checked. A video played showing Burmese democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi who is under house arrest. The cause is admirable, and it's well meaning on U2's part. However getting people to walk around a stage at a rock'n'roll show they paid a lot of money to see, wearing masks is outrageous and crass. It got worse. St Bono wouldn't leave it at that. The "One" organisation got its dues. And then a recorded message from Desmond Tutu (no I didn't think he was in U2 either) followed. It's part of U2's fabric and this reviewer appreciates that, but flogging your charity at people during a rock'n'roll show is crass, inappropriate, and nearly ruined an otherwise impeccable performance. 

"Walk On" and "MLK" followed, and St Bono took a hike. Good riddance.

Rock Star Bono was back. "Where the Streets Have No Name" rejuvenated the deflated crowd. The bass line still sends shivers up and down this reviewer's spine. "One" illuminates the sky and it's a rock n roll love in. All is good and beautiful. 

The band came back on for the encore. An old school mike was lowered to Rock Star Bono. He dragged on it, swung on it and paraded the showmanship and vocals that made him cool back in 1992. Oh and "Ultra Violet" was the tune! For this reviewer, this would have been a fine point to leave off on. "With or Without You" had to be played for the die hard fans though. And respect is due for the purpose and sincerity the band managed to convey during it too. 

However "Moment of Surrender" while certainly one of the highlights of the band's latest offering, was most definitely the pin in the balloon for many. As the stretching vocals reached climax in the chorus, folks began to think about where they were off to for a jar.

Like I said, U2 were never ones to shirk from selling their new wares. Still, the vocals were flaweless and the band sounded tight and very polished. The stage show was immense. U2 continue to be the world leaders in live show performances, but Bono is doing his best to spoil this for the rest of the band with his peddling of personal agendas ahead of doing what he does best.

Kevin Coleman


6 comment(s) so far...


Re: U2 (live in Dublin)

Saw the Monday show. Review captures the general buzz pretty well Kevin. The stage aside, which is oppressively fucking huge, this was a disappointing gig. I guess because like so many fans I'm looking for another great sonic leap forward. No other band seems capabale of giving us one right now, save perhaps Kings of Leon. Alas, it didn't come. Breathe is a cracker and a great show opener, but the rest of the new material is just missing something live. I thought the lads looked jaded, especially Larry and Bono, whose voice faltered several times. I won't fault them for it, it's just a fact of life. The only really great moment I thought was Ultraviolet, which I've always rated as the maybe best track on AB, that blew me away. But what was Bono at with the dangly mic? And he kept running in to the smoke to show off his jacket lasers. A couple of times I began to look at my shoes, close my eyes, so I could just hear the music and ignore the spectacle. So many of the songs seemed to evaporate under this stage, even Unforgettable Fire, which is such a shame. The predictable greatest hits was soft, SBS, New Years Day, With or without you - I realised standing in the middle of the pitch that these are the songs I actually don't want to hear anymore. Of this lot only Streets reached the heights, but given the intro they simply can't help but get you every time with it. Perhaps in the end we were spoiled by the Letterman performances in the Spring, for me they were genuinely electric. I guess Bono had to keep a lid on it for those and focus on the music, and maybe that's the key thing. Of course I won't get the live songs out of my head for several weeks - I guess they've been so good for so long that if this had been any other band I'd be delerious. But it aint no other band. Its the band. Maybe not the end of the great adventure just yet, but the beginning of the end I think.

By Conor on   Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Re: U2 (live in Dublin)

Hey Conor, thanks for the comments. I actually thought the dangly mic was different and that’s the side of Bono I always liked. Must confess AB is the only U2 album I could truly say I love though. The Letterman shows were impressive. However did you not feel the 4/5 day stint was a bit excessive? Or even a forced hard sell of the record? What other band would be afforded that exposure? There seemed to some general negativity around the BBC promo too on top of the building. It was sort of "Oh just because your U2 you can do that" you know? I still think this album while not full of hits is more of an attempt at moving somewhere than HTDAB was. I also believe that as any band gets older, it becomes hard to surprise and inspire both live and recorded which is natural. I agree that the key thing at this point is to concentrate on the music and take the foot off the charity peddling. I think that if anything breaks up the band, it will be this and the fear of not being relevant for the first time in 30 years. Thanks again for the comment though, really good to get an honest perspective from a long standing fan.

By Kevin Coleman on   Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Re: U2 (live in Dublin)

Yep the overexposure is the hallmark of who they (and PMcG) are, and truth be told I've just watched magnificent and breathe over and over. And for sure they are still brave, but Dylan has been brave through 30 or more records and only a third of them are really great. So its no guarantee. But unlike Bob (between '74 and '97 at least) they do have stringent quality control. I think I do like the new record, maybe even because it is so confusing, just like UF. I just don't think the best place to hear it is with 79,999 other people. So perhaps that's the real struggle they now face, where they go physically, not musically. There was this look on Larry's face as the moment of surrender singalong imploded once Bono went quiet. I don't think I'll forget it.

By conor on   Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Re: U2 (live in Dublin)

Well... fascinating stuff.

U2 have a reputation to regain here in Sydney. They played here at the end of the last world tour and it was a lacklustre night. The debate here seems, to me, to be about two things:- are the new songs good enough and is the spectacle of the stage covering up what seems to be a rather tired experience...

By Stephen on   Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Re: U2 (live in Dublin)

Good review Kevin.

I'm a hardcore fan and have been lucky enough (or rather, old enough!!) to have been a fan right from the Boy album. I was at all three shows - while they all had their highlights, Saturday's show, the one you reviewed, was probably the best.

I have to confess that I was underwhelmed by No Line when I first heard it but I would disagree with some of the comments that the new songs don't stand up live, in fact the opposite is the case for me - I'll be listening to it with a new enthusiasm now. "Breathe" struck me as one of the best songs on the album from the first listen and I think it made for a great opener. I do realise that for some of the audience, opening with four songs from the new album might be a bit much but that's probably U2 anxious to avoid turning into a Rolling Stones "greatest hits only" cabaret act.

I'd disagree with a few points: the parade of people onstage with the Aung Sun Su Kyi masks I actually thought was a great bit of theatre and was a highlight for me every night. Let's be honest, U2 have always had this kind of political element to their music and live shows - who could forget the infamous white flag posturing during the War tour? While I can appreciate that it annoys those who think that the show should be purely about entertainment, it wouldn't be U2 without a bit of lecturing and in fairness it's one of the elements that their fanbase are used to. I also disagree that ending the show with "Moment of Surrender" was a let down. I thought that song was one of the weakest on the album but in a live context it was a perfect come down after the spectacle and stadium rock beforehand. I actually looked forward to it as the shows went on.

I was in the pit for two of the shows - the bridge/platform yokes that moved around the ramp were great fun, especially when the inevitable happened every night and some gobshi*e tried to grab hold of the bars as it passed over the crowd. Never in the history of rock have so many bouncers sh*t themselves all at once. :-)

By Paul (aka John Doe on the discussion boards) on   Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Re: U2 (live in Dublin)

These reviews are by absolute idiots who are intimidated by u2 and just cannot accept that these are 4 ordinary(but very talented) Guys who set up a band over 30 years ago. Its incredible how they have stayed pals and working together. The have consistently come up with amazing material. They where making point by opening the 360 Tour shows with 4 consecutive songs from the new album. The songs sounded amazing live, even "Get on your boots" was superb live. These previous comments are absolute rubbish by less than intelligent individuals who do not live in the real world and I would imaging are ever likely to achieve anything themselves in the own lives. Idiots like this should remain quite and stay home and listen to there loser Muppet music. They are simply not qualified to comment on things they will never be capable of understanding. Go away you FOOLS.

By Steven on   Monday, August 31, 2009

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