U2: The little band that could (and did) In Pittsburgh (July 26, 2011)


U2 came to Pittsburgh for the last American night of their three year “360” tour.  They essentially filled Heinz Field, about 60,000 seats. Of course that meant nearly as many cars trying to get somewhere near the stadium, creating an epic traffic jam. Most stadium parking slots are pre-sold to football regulars so most attendees parked as far as a mile away as downtown parking garages and walked over various bridges to get there. It was a crowd nightmare.

All teenagers at the time, U2 started life as a garden variety Dublin punk band in 1976, but they quickly expanded to many other musical influences, making them one of the most recognizable bands in history, selling 150 million records and collecting 22 Grammies, more than any other band in history. Rolling Stone ranks them 22 in the list of the greatest rock bands of all time. In addition to music, they have campaigned for numerous human rights organizations and political causes.

There is no question that U2 has the credentials to draw 60,000 people to a stadium to watch them perform. The showmanship was simply spectacular (see photos and a brief clip enclosed) I’ve never seen anything like it. When he introduced the band, he said something about Dave Evans (The Edge) that I picked up on. He said Edge “changed the game”. And I think that’s true. The Edge can play both rhythm and lead at the same time like no other guitarist I have ever heard. He changes guitars with every song and he uses very creative digital delay and echo. He’s probably in the top five living guitarists.

All that said, I have some criticism.

I think Bono is letting politics color the musicality people pay a lot and endure crowding to see and hear. He gushes now a little too long, heaping unrestrained praise on the warm-up band “Interpol”, an average house band escapee from a dark New York City club. One wonders why the greatest contemporary band in the world needs a warm up band. He also tends to gush over some other artists without much discrimination, most notably Christina Aguilera, whose only claim to fame after many creative and performance flops is beating out Britney Spears for a Grammy in 2000.  Hardly a stellar accomplishment. I think Bono has been glad handling too many politicians of late and has learned to play the game a little too well.

U2 went pretty far out of its way to point out a list of social inequities in the world that existed long before them and will exist a long time after U2 is gone. Bono is a very personable person with a sense of social responsibility and he has the ear of many politicians involved in these issues. Although a noble gesture, 60,000 people expecting to hear a musical performance are not much interested in hearing about human rights issues in Burma. Bono can be equally effective in addressing these issues as a political personality separate and apart from his music.

I think this was an outstanding one of a kind performance, but I have some reservations.

I give it three and a half 160 foot high alien claws.

I liked Joshua Tree (1987) better.





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