Monday, February 05, 2007
A true modern-day superstar playing massively successful hits to a half full, largely disinterested stadium, with an otherwise impressive light show battling against the still daylit arena Is a massively underwhelming way to start a show. Kanye West, later described by Bono as "a great voice of America", plays his short set well (though performing the sanitized version of Gold Digger was an unusual choice), despite his busy songs falling victim to the unfortunate acoustics. An odd choice of support maybe, but politically they're soul mates, and politics turns out to play a major role in the evenings proceedings.
More a grandious cultural extension of a UN Goodwill operation than a gig at times, the U2 of tonight's show used their back catalogue as a backdrop to Bono's political visions and worthy maifestos, and to great effect. If the political side of the band had been interwoven with their music in the past, it was rammed home in 360-degree technicolour surround-sound glory tonight, songs stretched and deconstructed to let the issues shine...Entering stage left to the dying strains of Arcade Fire's Wake Up, The Edge lead the band into City Of Blinding Lights instantly making full use of the four monitors and massive transparent metallic screen that holds them against the crowd. Bono enters, draped in the Australian flag, grinning like he's found the fountain of youth, and doesn't waste time making full use of the curving walkways that set him out amongst 'his people', where he spends most of the rest of the evening. Vertigo, Elevation, Until The End Of The World, I Still Haven't Found... (dedicated to Cape Town's Archbishop Ndungane who is present) Beautiful Day (complete with a verse about Melbourne), follow.
Managing to stave off the 'dinosaur' tag better than most, U2 still shove their guitar necks around like they always have, and clearly know what's hip, as a result much of their new repertoire sounds metallic and harder-edged. Bono reliquishes many higher meoldies to the crowd and seems most passionate when speaking on personal/political themes, the motivations for the hits having moved on perhaps. A gentleness and powerful sense of melody seems absent from their newer music, the processed sheen clashing impressively with Bono's humanist yearnings. Predictably, war-themed songs get an airing; Bullet The Blue Sky (during which Bono seems to nearly set himelf alight with a rogue smoke flare) and Sunday Bloody Sunday ("tonight, it's a song turned into a prayer: May we not become a monster to defeat a monster") work well. Where The Streets Have No Name soundtracks a roll of African flags while Bono draws our attention to HIV and malaria statistics, before calling us to make a "Telstra galaxy" with our mobiles aloft, which looked lovely, though camera phones rarely left the hands of a large percentage of the audience tonight. Older tours are referenced too; Under A Blood Red Sky-era is represented with an unflashy and unexpected Party Girl, The Fly sees a return of Zoo TV's onslaught of images and words, while spotlights send long shadows across the stage in black and white for the Joshua Tree Tour's With Or Without You, with which they close their first encore. Singalong phone-wave-moment was during One, Bono-gets-ahead-of-himself-moments include his confused attempt to sing Kylie's Spinning Around, and the obligatory random-girl-pulled out-of-the-audience-for-a-brief-bond-with-Bono-moment occurs during Mysterious Ways.
Closing the second, and final encore, with Bad proves an inspired choice. The song they stole Live Aid with, an epic capsule of personal struggle against an unjust world, and a reminder of their simple strength; a trademark that sent or guided untold numbers of musicians on a path to form many of the bands dominating the airwaves today. The point everyone talks about the next day though, is Edge's closing, indeed only, words. "Goodnight Sydney. I mean goodnight Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, but mainly goodnight Melbourne!". Wonderful to know they're still human. Touchingly, The Go-Betweens' Streets Of Your Town starts as soon as they're gone.