October 12, 2009
Better than: Half-time at the proper name spelling bee.
The first thing everyone noticed, of course, was the much ballyhooed stage, a spider-looking contraption that house a circular inner stage, an outer-ring walkway, movable bridges that connected the two, and a 360-degree, high-definition screen suspended above it all.
Extravagant doesn't even begin to describe it. But, really, that was the theme of the whole evening at Cowboys Stadium--from Muse's rocking opening set, which served as an example of how all stadium show opening sets should be done, to U2's second encore, when Bono and Co., two hours into their own show, returned one final time to perform for its adoring crowd, this time with the frontman basked in red and blue lasers.
It'd be surprising, maybe, if this was another band. But, no, this is U2, the greatest stadium rock act alive. And, in turn, the band treated audiences to what essentially served as the greatest two-hour-long half-time show ever produced.
Half-time for what exactly? Well... life, perhaps?
Because, make no mistake: With a production value this high, a stage set-up this over-the-top, featuring one of the most dramatic rock acts in the business as the opening act and one of the greatest, most commercially successful rock bands of all-time serving as the headliner (and armed with a straight-up arsenal of hits to sling at its crowd), on Monday night, U2 had every intention of giving its audiences the best performance it had ever seen.
And, if the proof of as much wasn't in the production alone, it was in the offerings from Bono and The Edge, two of the most dramatic performers in the history of rock music. From the set's start, after the lights dimmed to Bowie's "Space Oddity" and the band launched into "Breathe" from its newest album, No Line On The Horizon, Bono leapt and lurched at his audiences like a cat. The Edge, meanwhile, performed his intricate guitar playing while, quite literally, sprinting around the stage's outer ring. The Cowboys Stadium audience at it up--and the flashes seen from handheld cameras from around the stadium only served to reinforce as much. Far as anyone at the stadium was concerned last night, this was not just a concert, but a once-in-a-lifetime event.
And, aside from maybe "The Sweetest Thing," the crowd got every song it could really want from the band--including a few extras. Bono, you see, has a knack for tossing out lines from other songs and placing them within his own. Throughout the night, he treated audiences to 10-second renditions of "Blackbird," "Stand By Me," "All You Need Is Love," and Denton-born Sly Stone's "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again)," among others. He also showed a knack for changing up the melodies and lyrics from his band's recorded output--much to the frustration and confusion of the sing-along set, who did their best to follow. But, of course, such leeway allowed for various asides, too: Within the first couple minutes of the performance, Bono had shouted out, oddly enough, the DART rail, Richardson, Fort Worth, Fair Park, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and even called his own band "Irish Cowboys."
Was it pandering? Yes, absolutely. But did the crowd eat it up? What do you think?
It's all a give-and-take with this band, though: The fandom, of course, allows for the band to offer up its political asides. With the help of a crew form Amnesty International, Bono called for the release of Burmese political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, and, throughout the night, thanked people for helping his battles against AIDS in Malaria in Africa--even President Bush, to the equal surprise and delight of various audience members.
Having also heard the beauty of of "One," the fist-pumping thump of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and the driving tenderness of "Where The Streets Have No Name," the crowds couldn't really complain--not based off the band's performance, at least. There still remain sound issues in the cavernous venue, though, as slower songs from both acts were hampered by reverberations bouncing back and forth about the stadium.
But, overall? Quite the show, indeed.
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Personal Bias: This was my first time seeing U2, believe it or not. Love the band, not sure how I feel about its overtly political posturings, although I certainly respect all the band's done for various parts of the world. Just seemed a little weird to ask people for donations to the cause when the band is spending so much on its stage--especially in a venue like this, which has a 60-yard HD screen that was turned off and could've been utilized instead, if only to save money and better contribute to the cause....right?
Random Note: Muse called the Death Star "lovely," which might've been my favorite part of the night. Is that weird to say? Whatever.
By The Way: When President Bush got his shout-out during "One," half the stadium cheered maniacally. The other half looked like it'd been punched in the gut. Awesome moment.