Wednesday, 6 January 2010

665 U2, Athlete, Doves, London Twickenham Rugby Stadium, Saturday 18 June 2005

An honest-to-goodness Stadium gig - one of 3 this year (and of 2 in 2 days!), and no better way to start than with the ultimate stadium band - U2, whom I'd seen on my first stadium show almost exactly 20 years ago! A roaringly sunny day saw us heading off to London at 11, parking up at our friends' place and enjoying a splendid BBQ lunch in good company and fine weather! Headed from thence over to Twickenham via overground and underground train - my first time at this cavernous and impressive stadium bowl, a shame the access was so slow as it took over 1/2 hour to queue up for armbands even before getting in!

So we finally arrived pitchside at 6, as the Doves were onstage peddling a pleasant but innocuous Britpop chunter. I quite liked their set closer "There Goes the Fear", which recalled "A Whiter Shade Of Pale"(!) but that was about it! We kept our place about 1/3 back from the stage-left speaker stack (no chance of getting into the 5,000 capacity "Inner Circle" encompassing the stage front and the elliptical runway - those armbands had gone by 11 a.m.!) for main support Athlete who were shockingly poor. No doubt aiming for the Coldplay slow-burn mood market, they were even way wide of that mark. Dull, desperate and dire!

U2 have however performed a remarkable reinvention recently, returning to their root values of passionate, emotive soaring pop, after their ill-fated (in my view, anyway) 90's triad of "irony" albums. With a strong single "Vertigo", and a refreshingly consistent new CD, "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb", their return to form only needed rubber-stamping with an exemplary live performance, one whicch they should be well capable of. So expectations were sky-high as the refrain of the Arcade Fire's wonderful "Wake Up" heralded their entrance at 8.20. Straight into "Vertigo", then first album oldies "I Will Follow" and "Electric Co." in quick succession. I should have been going utterly potty at this point, but something seemed missing...

The first half was definitely U2 on cruise control, the band not as passionate and committed as they should have been, running through oldies like "New Year's Day" by rote, and only politely accepted by this crowd of gig tourists, definitely not the rabid U2 crowd of yesteryear. "Beautiful Day" however picked up the mood, and as dusk started to fall, the light show kicked in, and "City Of Blinding Lights", the moving intricate guitarplay of the Edge to the fore, finally sent the set soaring.

A surprisingly stunning "Miracle Drug" followed, before "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own", a stately ballad about Bono's father, brought Rachel to tears as the lightshow backdrop played an image of a father walking along. This then was the making of this set - thereafter U2 poured their emotion more fully into their performance, seeming more committed on the new numbers, with Edge riffing away for all he was worth on "Love And Peace" and the dark, imposing "Bullet The Blue Sky". Then Bono provided a touching calm-after-the-storm vocal on the haunting "Running To Stand Still", my highlight of the night, augmented by the Bill Of Human Rights being projected onto the backdrop.

Then a stunning "Where The Streets Have No Name", Edge's virtuoso intro complementing an energetic vocal from the headbanded Bono, finally feeling it. "One", featuring Bono's political plea to support Live 8 and "Make Poverty History" (preaching to the converted, as ever, a little unnecessarily) capped an inconsistent, infuriating but finally worthwhile set.

Then of course the boys had to have their fun - encores of "Zoo Station", "The Fly" and "Mysterious Ways" saw us return to the overblown stage theatrics of the Zoo TV tour, which I confess didn't do it for me either then or now. It should be about the music, boys! A strict 10.30 curfew precluded another break, so a fine "Yahweh" and another run-through of "Vertigo" (Why? Why not "40"?) ended 2 hours and 10 minutes that entertained despite the disappointing opening. Ran into my brother on the walk back to the tube - he's sleeping in his car and doing it all again tomorrow! We, on the other hand, are off to see Green Day!

No comments:

Post a Comment