Sunday, November 08, 2009

U2 in Glendale

Somehow my seldom blog updates have become U2 centric. I didn't plan it that way, and while I'm still a big fan, I'm not in the enthrall I once was. Regardless, I've been meaning to sit down and relate my thoughts on the show here two weeks ago.

I haven't seen the band since the unfairly maligned Popmart album and tour in 1997, which I saw at Giants Stadium. I also saw them in 1992 in about the third total Achtung Baby concert in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was in college back then and didn't know them as well at that point. Being overseas for a long time, I missed several of the tours. I got to make up for that lost opportunity by seeing a great show at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale a few weeks ago.

For this 360 tour, U2 set up an a general admission area known as "the pit." There is a large ring around the stage, and the enclosed area closest to the stage is "the pit." It is not the most comfortable place to wait or watch a concert, as it is standing room only and crowded, but given that most concerts with actual seats, at least up close, are standing room only, this isn't the end of the world -- no pun intended. The general admission tickets in the pit area are not unreasonable -- in fact they are very moderately priced at about $60. I dropped by at the opening of the line up-just to check it out at around 11 am. There were several people there already at that time. The arena opened up at 5 to allow people in, and that's when I got there -- about three hours before the show. This was still plenty of time to get into the pit, which is the way I'd recommend seeing the show. I was about 12 feet from the stage. If I waited all day, I'd have been about 4 feet away. I was happy with that trade.

The band connects the center stage to the outer rings with a movable bridge. I took the above picture of the Edge, who was literally that far away. The man is a guitar genius. I love his use of guitar effects. The band is an entirely different experience that close. I saw Dave Matthews last Summer from row six, and then again in May from the lawn. The first was a seminal experience-- perhaps also because they chose a particularly inspired set list that night. The latter felt like a pointless ripoff being that far away. It cost about $90 for two sets with indistinct sound and a visual set up I could barely see from so far. The lawn has its charm for some, but I won't do it again, and these shed tours are pretty much the norm these days. How many arena acts do we even still have?

For the U2 shows, I've read different reports on the sound quality being weak in the upper areas, but in the pit area the sound was immaculate. Bono radiates a real personableness and a general stage presence and humanity that really puts him high on the list of people I most admire. The concert helped build some appreciation for the band's latest album, which is good, but is definitely not great. The set list included some less renowned favorites like Ultraviolet and the Unforgettable Fire, and other classics like Streets Have No Names. My only disappointment is that Bad wasn't on the set list, which I happen to think is the best song of the 80s. They have played it on other stops of this tour. I just watched the streaming youtube cast they did from Los Angeles, and that has been a nice way to relive it as well -- a far better value than the $45 t-shirts.

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