Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: U2, St. Louis, 7.17.11

Guest Reviewer: Jared Goff

ST. LOUIS, MO – U2’s performance Sunday night at Busch Stadium began with a set straight from the time William Clinton was about to take the presidency from H.W. Bush. It's not at all a bad thing when the two albums from that time of U2 were like nothing they’ve done before or since. Bias aside, the three best “rock” songs U2 has written were over before we were 15 minutes into the show.

The atmosphere at the show after the opening was electric, perhaps better than any concert I’ve been at since the Stones pushed 70,000 baby boomers to fit their leather and bell-bottoms into the now Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Busch Stadium was filled to capacity with a great mix of classic rock fanatics and young adults who grew up in the '80s and '90s.

After the opening set, things got random. The audience was treated to one of the oldest U2 radio hits then one of the newest. I judge live performances by songs I like or dislike more than the ones I’m neutral to. “Get On Your Boots” is my least favorite U2 song but was somehow very enjoyable to hear live with the booming riff from Edge. In that same category is another great song, “Where the Streets Have No Name.” I don’t listen to the studio version often--the ringing guitar riff is not done justice unless it’s performed live. Hearing "Streets” is as close to having a religious experience at a concert these days this side of hearing the Boss perform “Born in the U.S.A.”

During the second half of the show, U2 utilized the extravagant stage they’ve hung out on for nearly two years. The round and vertical display of what seems to be thousands of interconnected smaller displays is spectacular. During “Zooropa” and “City Of Blinding Lights,” the displays were extended to cover the vertical length of the set. Extravagant stages are successful if they simply complement the music rather than distract (see giant yellow arch from U2's Pop Mart Tour). The stage here put the foursome close up and personal with the audience, and Bono is better than anyone I’ve seen at interacting with an audience while performing.

Speaking of fan interaction, it was a nice touch when Bono read off the set list from U2’s first performance in St. Louis at a small venue on the Washington University campus. After 30 years, there’s no sign that they’re getting burned out or don’t enjoy performing as much as they did in the 1980s.

To wrap up the show, U2 added on a few more staples. “Walk On” and “One” seem to have become standard practice during or just before the encore. A pleasant surprise though was “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.” My favorite song growing up along with Journey’s “Separate Ways,” it was the first time I’d heard the song performed live. The title track from Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever is an example of what makes U2 great in that it doesn’t sound like U2. So many groups either don’t know how or just don’t want to venture outside their comfort zone. U2 did that in the 1990s with mixed results but it ultimately made them one of the top five groups of all time, in this writer’s opinion.

Compared to other U2 shows, the stadium tours will always fall a little behind arena shows strictly because of acoustics. No other group could have drawn 60,000 fans without even a notable opening act as U2 did on Sunday. Even with a recent record that didn’t live up to the group’s expectations, there’s no reason to think U2 won’t be back in the Midwest a few years from now with an even bigger performance. Let’s just hope they choose their city more wisely next time.

Set list: Even Better Than the Real Thing, The Fly, Mysterious Ways, Until the End of the World, I Will Follow, Get On Your Boots, Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Stay, Beautiful Day, Elevation, 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, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Walk On, Where the Streets Have No Name Encore: Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me; With or Without You; Moment of Surrender.

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