“You know, some people measure their years from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Eve. We seem to measure our years from U2 show to U2 show. Well, this year, at least.”
The above statement is what I said to Mrs. NH as we were heading back to our hotel, hot on the heels of our 2nd U2 show in a little over a year. Overcome by the sense of euphoria and muscle fatigue that comes with 3-4 hours standing in the middle of a stadium with 70,000 of your closest friends, I reflected on the past year. Monday night’s show was a fitting way to cap a year that has been less than business as usual for the NH clan.
The show was really one of the best I have seen by this band. Having been lucky enough to catch them six times live since 1997, I’m getting to know what a really good U2 show is and this was one of them. I entered the stadium with slightly lowered expectations. After Bono’s 50th birthday and the US tour-scotching back surgery coupled with a complete lackluster performance on the U2 360 from Pasadena DVD, I thought my rock and roll heroes might have lost the magic.
Luckily, they proved me wrong and opened a huge can of awesomeness in the stadium on a Monday night and even moved yours truly to exclaim, “They’re on fire!” Bono’s voice sounded like he was about 25 as he hit every high note and sang every lyric. Larry Mullen’s snares sounded more like pistols as the percussive effect of each shot cracked through the air. Adam Clayton’s bass was unusually “dirty” and really stood out in the sound mix giving some needed oomph to a road worn set list. Finally, even though he was plagued by technical glitches, the Edge made up for it by playing like it was his last show. Chords growled from his armory of guitars and he seemed to wrestle each one like a live serpent, as he set the cool Vienna evening ablaze.
The 360 tour has settled into a nice groove. The band is no longer in awe of its own stage and has learned to instead concentrate on playing the best version of each song. The sound coming from the “claw” was crisper than ever with lows that rumbled my jeans – even in the center of a crowd of 20,000 punters on the floor.
But I would be wildly negligent if I didn’t comment a little further on Bono himself. This is a man that has had ups and downs this year and is back with a vengeance. His aforementioned voice punctuated the songs and his movement around the stage gave the whole show the theatrical boost that had been missing last year in Berlin. Shades of the ZooTV tour were in his delivery of “Until the End of the World” on this night. That transformed the song from merely rocking to something with infinitely deeper layers that even caused my mind to dip into the spiritual, Biblical strata of this 5 minute rock song. This was U2, after all.
One gets the feeling that this band has seen the end of the world over the past year. And like they always have, they bring it to the stage to put your world in perspective even if only for a few fleeting moments on one night in late August.
Happy New Year.