It was my great pleasure to attend the U2 360° tour on May 24, 2011 in Salt Lake City, Utah. U2 has the reputation of being one of the greatest live bands of all time and I was stoked to finally get my chance to see them do a live show. I had actually bought tickets for the Salt Lake City show that was scheduled for June 3, 2010 and would have been the kickoff for U2’s North American tour. As fate would have it Bono had emergency back surgery so the Salt Lake City show was put on hold for a year. I held onto my tickets and vowed to attend when U2 finally rolled into town.
I was actually pretty surprised at how quickly the year passed. U2 continued to tour after Bono recovered from his surgery and like every live band they improved with every show. That’s the beautiful thing about playing a lot of gigs, you get better as a musician and the members of U2 are no different. So in Salt Lake City we got to see a more refined and time tested show in 2011 than we would have seen in 2010. Even Bono said “We are so much better than last year.”
So I showed up to Rice-Eccles stadium on May 24, 2011 with my June 3, 2010 ticket in hand and they let me in and out onto the field. I ended up about 15 yards back from the outer ring of the stage. What an incredible stage! The Claw has been written about in other places so I’ll just say that it is even more magnificent in person than it is in pictures. I was shocked by the magnitude of the stage. I’ve never seen a stadium seem so small as when I walked onto the field at Rice-Eccles stadium. The stage filled the entire widthof the field and 2/3 of the length of the field. The top of the tower was higher than the top of the seating in the stadium. If ever a band wanted to appear larger than life then this stage is a very good backdrop.
A band called The Fray opened for U2 and they did an acceptable job. They seemed slightly underwhelmed by the whole thing and the crowd seemed underwhelmed by The Fray. After The Fray ended their set we had to wait while the crew readied the stage for U2. It was amazing to see the buzz of activity around the Claw while the crew took their places for the U2 show. Men were harnessed into seats with spotlights and lifted into the legs of the Claw. Crew were climbing ladders and crawling catwalks all around and in inside the Claw as well. According to a statistic flashed on the big circular screen during the stage transition there are 450 crew members manning this show. Needless to say, it’s big. The crowd started the “Wave” while waiting for the band to take the stage and also read some interesting factoids on the giant circular screen above the stage.
When U2 took the stage they opened the show with “Even Better Than The Real Thing” and the crowd roared their approval. This show had been a long time coming and I saw relieved and happy faces all around me when the band finally appeared. The band’s playing was extremely tight and energetic. They followed with “I Will Follow” and “Get On Your Boots” with both songs sounding strong and bringing a really good energy into the stadium.
It was Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday and U2 celebrated it all night long. Bono mentioned Bob’s birthday early on and at one point had the stadium sing “Happy Birthday” to Bob. Bono also sang a verse or two of “BlowinIn The Wind” and “The Times They Are A Changin'”. They also sang “Love Rescue Me” which was co-written with Dylan and featured on the Rattle And Hum album. I was very impressed with Bono’s rapport with the audience. I’ve been to so many concerts where everything the band says sounds like it was said a hundred times before in a hundred different cities. When Bono spoke his lines felt fresh and it felt like he was really speaking only to Salt Lake City. His heartfelt thanks to the audience for their patience really connected with the crowd.
Another highlight of the show was the bands use of the enormous stage. It’s funny because the stage is extremely large and covers a lot of area but it’s amazingly uncluttered. The band was able to move around freely and they made use of the entire stage. During the song “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” the entire band took a walk around the large circular stage with Larry Mullin finding his freedom playing a hand drum. The outer ring of the stage was bridged by two actual bridges that moved throughout the night and provided the backdrop for some very memorable moments.
When U2 performed their song “Beautiful Day” Bono brought 3 girls onstage to read a poem about Utah. It was a very personalized to the venue moment and I found it quite special to have the band take the time to single out Utah during their show.
One of my favorite moments was the performance of “All I Want Is You“. I just love that song and Bono’s voice on this night was in excellent form. I was surprised at how very well Bono was singing and his voice was strong and powerful the entire night.
About the circular video screen, it’s the most amazing screen I’ve ever seen at a concert. As with everything in this show it’s big, really big. But it’s not just the size, it’s the clarity of the thing. The images looked amazing and even though I was close enough to see the performers facial expressions onstage I found myself watching them on this enormous screen. I kept telling myself “Hey dummy, look at the guys onstage not the screen!” The video screen is a very interesting and integral part of the show. During songs like “Miss Sarajevo” the screen shows video clips that are integral to the story told in the songs.
There was also a message from recently released political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, who was elected the President of Burma and then held under house arrest for 15 of the 21 years from 1989 until her release in 2010. She gave a very relevant statement to all U2 fans and here is her quote: “When you raise your voices we hear them in our country and around the world, they are louder than any rock band, then any army, than rocket fire or fighter jet.”
Another mind blowing moment with the screen came during the performance of “Zooropa“. The screen broke apart into hundreds of segments that slowly moved apart and lowered to envelope the band in a tornado-like tunnel. The flashing LED panels provided for some dizzying lighting effects and the overall effect was simply spectacular. I also loved the hanging microphone that Bonowas swinging from during “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” and “With Or Without You”. He also donned a leather jacket with lasers attached to it which I’m sure would be all the rage if they ever went on sale to the general public.
As I said before, the band played incredibly well. The Edge played a multitude of different guitars and amplifiers providing the trademark U2 guitar backdrop found in all their music. The guitars sounded simply excellent although there was a hum coming through the P.A. system from something and it sounded like guitar hum to me. Adam Clayton was rock solid as usual and looked like the true rockstar he is. Larry Mullin looks like he hasn’t aged at all since the early days and his drumming was tight and precise providing a pillar for the band to hang their excellent music on.
I could go on forever about the show but I don’t want to write a book about it. The show was the biggest production I have ever seen and I’m very happy to have been a part of it by being in the audience.
One thing I noticed about the show was the sheer sound volume. It was dangerously loud and I saw a lot of people there without proper hearing protection. I know it may seem worth it to lose some hearing for the greatest show ever but it’s not. So, if you’re planning on going to see the U2 360° show, make sure you take proper hearing protection!
Main Set: 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, Beautiful Day – Here Comes The Sun, Pride, Miss Sarajevo, Zooropa, City of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, I’ll Go Crazy (remix) – Discotheque – Mofo, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Scarlet, Walk On – You’ll Never Walk Alone
Encore(s): One, Blowin’ In The Wind – The Times They Are A-Changin – Where the Streets Have No Name, Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, With or Without You, Moment of Surrender