Memorial Stadium, on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, seats approximately 85,000 screaming, crimson-clad Sooner fans on a typical football Saturday. But, last night, the vast and high stadium could not contain "the space ship," as dubbed by Bono--the multi-million dollar, lavish set which U2 has used throughout its European and U.S. stadium show tour. While the set is monumental in size and cost, it helped lend a feeling of intimacy to a stadium show in front of 60,000 fans.
I have attended three U2 stadium shows and two arena shows. And, while the arena concerts are certainly more intimate with better acoustics, this concert was truly a great one.
The Black Eyed Peas, perhaps the most successful hit-making band in the U.S. right now, opened the show and got the crowd primed and ready. But, it became apparent when U2 took the stage that the major leaguers were about to take the thousands of attendees on a ride through the band's vast catalog of music.
Similar to the U.S. shows to date, U2 opened with a set of three songs from their No Line on the Horizon album--"Breathe," "Get On Your Boots," and "Magnificent." I'm not sure why this album has sold poorly, by U2 standards, as it contains the best music the band has made since Achtung Baby. The new stuff gave way to a funkified version of "Mysterious Ways" and Bono's prancing around the outer ring which circled the main stage underneath the set--four claw-like arms which contained hundreds of lights and speakers.
The concert was technically in the round although the majority of the songs were performed to our east side vantage point. Larry Mullin's drum kit would occasionally rotate so that he performed to the west side, and Bono and the Edge used the round catwalk several times to reach out to the audience.
The band played for two hours and 15 minutes and in that span hit on classics ("One," "Where the Streets Have No Name," "Sunday Bloody Sunday"), newer material ("Elevation," "Vertigo") and fare which was a bit more obscure ("Ultra Violet/Light My Way.") It was this last song that was a highlight of the evening for me, along with "Sunday" and "The Unforgettable Fire." And, Bono's performance on "In a Little While," a song rarely performed in concert, was emotional and captivating.
U2 played at Lloyd Noble Arena in Norman in 1983 and, as Bono noted, "it's taken us 26 years to travel one mile" for their first return to Oklahoma since that initial show. There were many Oklahomans sitting around us who were grateful that the band returned, and many of us from within driving distance who were glad to see the set...and, more importantly, the band.