BY MIKE KERWICK
The Bergen County Record
July 21, 2011
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper, folded in quarters. Someone handed it to Bono before the show. It was a copy of an old U2 set list, he said, a set list that dated back 30 years.
“A club called the Fast Lane,” Bono told the crowd. “I don’t know if it’s still there? Is it gone?”
Someone shouted an answer from the floor.
“It’s gone?” Bono asked. “OK. Well, we’re still here.”
He unfolded the piece of paper and began to rattle off the list of songs
“This won’t take long,” he said. “It wasn’t many songs.”
The tour is 360° — a reference to the shape of the stage — but 180° would be a better fit. U2’s Wednesday night show at New Meadowlands Stadium was a reminder of the distance a band can travel in 30 years. As much as Bono tried to dip his fingers in the pleasant waters of nostalgia, this show was a 180-degree shift from that three-decades-old night on the Jersey Shore.
Less like a concert, more like a planetarium show, U2 put on a spectacle unlike any Exit 16W has ever seen. The stage had bridges, and both guitarists used those bridges. The stage had a ring that encircled it, and the lead singer ran laps around it. The set had lights, and wow, did they use those lights.
Visually, the show was a masterpiece. A more polished performance than the band’s last trip through here (Giants Stadium, 2009), the special effects wizards clearly picked up a few new tricks.
A few examples:
•During the band’s first song, “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” the mixture of smoke and red lights made the top of the stage look like a lighthouse and made the band look even more towering.
•During the band’s second song, “The Fly,” the stage looked like an experiment in stop-motion photography.
•During the band’s fourth song, “Until the End of the World,” spotlights followed Bono, the Edge and Adam Clayton as they walked around the stage.
How big has this band become? The group even had a commander from the International Space Station tailor a message specifically for this night, this crowd, before he introduced “Beautiful Day” on the big screen.
Musically, there were bright spots and blips.
Some songs — like “Mysterious Ways” — took a detour from the album version. Other songs — like the newer but equally entertaining “Magnificent” — were more like replicas from the album. Both worked.
But there were times that the guitars sounded screechy (“The Fly,” for instance). And just before “Stay,” Bono interrupted a conversation with the crowd to switch outfits. Odd. Seconds later, the Edge confessed that he had to retune his guitar. Even odder.
Other moments made up for it. Bono, ever the performer, prowled the stage and sounded like a spoken-word poet during “Mysterious Ways.” He even poked fun at himself.
“As for me, I haven’t changed much,” Bono told the crowd during one break. “Just 200 trucks, 400 tons of equipment and 95,000 people and I’m happy.”
Delayed a year, this show was originally penciled in for last summer, before Bono’s creaky back forced the band to scrap a season of stadium shows.
A gargantuan tour by every measure — revenue, stage size, musicianship and ego — the U2 360 degrees tour is finally inching toward its conclusion. The band has gigs in Minneapolis and Pittsburgh before wrapping up its road run at the Magnetic Hill Music Festival in Moncton, New Brunswick.
Interpol opened for U2, playing about 10 songs, including “Narc,” “The Heinrich Maneuver” and “C’mere.” The band has a knack for piecing together inviting opening lines — “How are things on the West Coast?” — that prime the crowd for the songs that follow.
Even Better Than the Real Thing
Until the End of the World
I Will Follow
Get on Your Boots
Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
Pride (In the Name of Love)
City of Blinding Light
I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Where the Streets Have No Name
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
With or Without You
Moment of Surrender
Out of Control