“Intimacy”, quipped Bono as he looked up at the gigantic props on the stage. “That’s what we’re going for.”
In a paradoxical way, I can see what they were going for. The gigantic spaceship like structure was so big that it played an optical illusion and made the cavernous Georgia Dome seem not so huge. Even though there were three times as many people at this show than the last time I saw U2 (and getting into and out of parking attested to the volumes of people) it didn’t feel like it was it was that many more. U2 is one of those few bands that can make even the people in the top rows in the upper deck feel like they are part of the show.
That intimacy didn’t happen immediately, though. As the band came out and started with some of the newer songs from their latest album, No Line On The Horizon, the band and the crowd seemed to be trying get reacquainted with each other after being apart for some four years. Not until the band launched into some of their more anthemic songs like “Beautiful Day” and “Vertigo” did it feel like the throttles were fully open and the engines of U2 were firing at full blast. For me, that’s when it started to feel like a U2 show.
Even still, though, the concert didn’t have some of the dynamic feel of previous tours as the band rapidly moved from song to song, leaving little time for Bono’s political or social rambling, though he did stall for time at The Edge’s expense when the guitarist had technical difficulties talking about how the guitarist was from the future and if he had not met the band he would be somewhere blowing himself up in a laboratory. When the band played “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, the visuals took on a distinct Arabic tone with green lighting and I have to wonder if there was some implicit protest of the Iran elections earlier this year. “Walk On” was introduced as a tribute to Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi and several people walked out on stage holding signs with her face in front of theirs.
The highlights for me were some of the unexpected moments as I avoided reading setlists and reviews for the tour. I loved hearing “The Unforgettable Fire” get pulled out of the vault and the encore at the end with “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” where Bono came onto the stage with a jacket of tiny lights signing into a microphone swinging from above was probably one of my favorite moments. There weren’t any parts of the show that made me gasp like the touching tribute to 9/11 on the Elevation tour or Bono’s tribute to his father by singing “Miss Sarajevo” on the Vertigo tour, but there were moments that made me smile like the bouncy, trippy version of “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight.”
The opening band, Muse, was better than I expected. I’m not really of huge fan of Muse, but to their credit, they delivered a solid set with mostly songs I had heard before. Neat visual tricks on the screen above them made them seem a little more dynamic than they actually were on stage, but at the same time, they had some scalding instrumental parts and sounded tight. To their credit, they had a better light show and better sound than any opening band I’ve ever seen. For that matter, the sound for the entire night was excellent, a tribute to the sound crew for making such a giant cave as the Georgia Dome listenable.