For nearly a quarter-century, I've been told I "had to" see U2, that they put on a show without equal, and were over-the-top fantastic.
Well, after that long and having that many people tell you something, you kind of don't believe it anymore. I mean, how could it be so? Still?
Turns out - to an extent at least - those folks were right. Playing beneath a larger-than-you-pictured, even-though-you'd-seen-the-pictures-stage setting featuring "The Claw," the band rolled out to an overwhelming roar at 8:50 p.m. - nearly a year after originally planned - and launched into "Even Better Than The Real Thing," which was marred by a murky, swirling sound.
The sound kept improving as the band rolled through "I Will Follow," "Get On Your Boots," and "Magnificent."
The band arguably didn't achieve lift-off until after a quiet duet between Bono and The Edge on "All I Want Is You," and a quick take on the Bob Dylan-penned "Love Rescue Me." After the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to the now 70-year-old Dylan - no, he wasn't there - the show really picked up. Even though they've had numerous smash hits, it's unlikely the band has a more well-loved song than "Pride." And even though at 27 it's likely older than many of the folks who were singing the words in the capacity Rice-Eccles Stadium crowd, it still sounds fresh, vibrant and politically poignant - even in completely conservative Utah.
The show may have gotten too political for some when Bono repeatedly touted the work of Amnesty International and sang "Scarlet" as a full-fledged tribute to recently released Burmese political leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent 20 years as a political detainee. It was a fairly emotional scene as the band played video of the freed woman advocating the importance of individual action, which she said was "louder than any rock band."
Other music highlights included all-too quick run through of The Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun," (which reminded met that I'd worried way too much about the weather for this show. It was absolutely dry, clear and just about perfect) "Zooropa," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "City of Blinding Lights" and "Vertigo."
The big finale was arguably a last tribute to Dylan when Bono rambled through a verse of "Blowin' In the Wind," before segueing into the huge hit "Where The Streets Have No Name." Interestingly, the band closed on the far less known "Moment of Surrender" from 2009's "No Line on the Horizon." Like the rest of the show - even though it wasn't exactly what you expected - it lived up to the hype. And considering the weight the band labors under with its now 33-year-reputation fully on the line with each bigger-than-ever-before tour, that's saying something.
And here's the songlist:
U2: Rice-Eccles Stadium: May 24, 2011 Even Better Than The Real Thing I Will Follow Get On Your Boots Magnificent Mysterious Ways Elevation Until The End Of The World All I Want Is You Love Rescue Me Happy Birthday Stay (Faraway, So Close!) Beautiful Day / Here Comes The Sun (snippet) Pride (In The Name Of Love) Miss Sarajevo Zooropa City Of Blinding Lights Vertigo I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight / Discothèque (snippet) Sunday Bloody Sunday Scarlet Walk On / You'll Never Walk Alone (snippet)
encore(s): One The Times, They Are A-Changin' (snippet) / Where The Streets Have No Name Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me With Or Without You Moment of Surrender