Friday, July 8, 2011

U2 @ Vanderbilt Stadium (Concert Review)

Experience - a particular instance of personally or communally encountering, observing or undergoing something as it occurs in a specific place and time.

There are concerts and then there are experiences. For the 45,000 plus who joined me for U2’s incredible show at Vanderbilt Stadium last Saturday night, there was no question that we were all sharing in something special. From the sheer grandeur of the stage to the pin-drop quiet moments in some of the songs, U2 provided more than just some music and lights. They provided a uniquely poignant moment in time that was filled with celebration, emotion, communion, introspection, and perspective. Bono and the boys have an incredible way of taking you inside your own heart in one moment and then helping you understand your place in the big picture in the next. Every time someone’s favorite song was sung, individual memories were conjured up and displayed on the faces and in the voices of everyone there. But before you could get too wrapped up in yourself, a video message from Archbishop Desmond Tutu or from Mark Kelly, an astronaut manning the International Space Station, would remind you that we are all part of a world that is so much bigger than the block we live on. Amazingly this was done all night without the slightest feeling of inauthenticity or snake oil salesmanship. How do they do it? The reason is simple. The songs. Hands down, U2 is the biggest rock band on the planet and have been for quite some time. Regardless of if you can pick out an album or two of theirs that you don’t like, it’s impossible to deny that for over 30 years U2 has provided some of the greatest rock music that’s ever been made. You can call me hyperbolic if you want, but all it takes is Bono backing off the mic and letting you and a stadium filled with 45,000 of your newest friends take the first verse of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” to settle the argument.

U2 took the stage to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” a theme that would reappear multiple times throughout the night, and commenced to engage us in a musical conversation spanning their entire expansive catalogue. Giving us a little something from every one of their albums, even including “Miss Sarajevo” from their Passengers side project, U2 brought out the heavy artillery. Wrapping their musical arms around the whole stadium, they played enough hits for even the most casual of fans while still giving the fanboys some special moments to salivate over. One of those incredible moments came when Bono walked over to The Edge, whispered something into his ear and then launched into “The Wanderer” from Zooropa. Fittingly enough, the original version featured Johnny Cash on vocals and this is the only time they’ve played it live at one of their concerts. It was an incredible tribute to “The Man In Black” and a cool tip of the hat to Nashville as well. Another unforgettable moment came at the end of the show after the guys had already finished playing. Bono saw a guy in the front row with a sign that said “Blind Guitar Player” and brought him up on stage. He asked the guy what he wanted to play and the guy chose “All I Want Is You” for his wife. Bono brought out his own guitar, strapped it on the guy and sang as the guy played along. Quickly enough, Larry, Adam and The Edge joined in as well. At the end, Bono actually gave the guy his guitar. What an unscripted, phenomenal end to a phenomenal show! The moment was awesome enough in it’s own right, but it was even more special for Amanda and I. We actually saw U2 on our third date back in 1997 and had a magical moment during “All I Want Is You.” It was the first thing I ever wrote about on here. I was really hoping they were going to play it this time around and had Bono not seen that guy’s sign, it wouldn’t have happened. Words are inadequate to capture that kind of serendipity. The whole night was like that though. Every memorable riff from The Edge’s guitar, the beautiful chug of Adam’s bass lines, Larry’s eternally cool, solid drumming and Bono’s matchless charisma and signature wail. All of the ingredients were present for a powerful reminder of what music is supposed to be and what it's supposed to do. By the time U2 exited to the bookended strains of “Space Oddity,” it was clear to see that just like Major Tom, we had definitely been transported somewhere else as well. I really hope to be able to take that trip again one day with the four Irish lads who have provided so many songs for my soundtrack and so many truths for my life.

Even Better Than The Real Thing
The Fly
Mysterious Ways/Single Ladies
Until The End Of The World
I Will Follow
Get On Your Boots
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For/The Wanderer
Stay (Faraway, So Close!) (Acoustic)
Beautiful Day/Space Oddity
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Miss Sarajevo
City Of Blinding Lights
Miss You/I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight/Discothèque/Psycho Killer/Life During Wartime
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Walk On/You'll Never Walk Alone
Amazing Grace/Where The Streets Have No Name
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
With Or Without You
Moment of Surrender
All I Want Is You

Here's a video of "All I Want Is You" with the blind guitar player:

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