U2 – Anaheim Stadium – June 17, 2011

I’ve been a bit neglectful of the blog for a few weeks due to work, travel and general craziness.  So, I owe a review of the Eels from June 1st.  But, the long awaited return of U2 to Southern California happened tonight…and I just can’t ignore it or delay the review.

The media preached about horrible gridlock and to stay away from the area or arrive early.  The only horrible thing I saw was the jacked up parking prices.  An Angels game is usually $12…tonight it was $25…and the surrounding lots sensing blood in the water were all between $20 an $30 to park.  Wanting to actually be able to afford dinner, I opted (along with my stepson Dan) to park a couple miles away and ride our bikes to the stadium via the river trail.  An excellent plan that was only hampered by my breaking a spoke as we reached the parking lot.  That lead to a very wobbly ride back after the show…but, it still only took 20 minutes and saved us almost the cost of dinner.

Parking and transport aside, we arrived perfectly early and met my friend Dave and his wife Karen who had opted to ride their motorcycle in and avoid the worst of the traffic themselves.  We had a quick bite and settled in for Lenny Kravitz.

First off…what a horrid sound mix.  The first song was so bad it was rendered almost unintelligible…it improved and the engineer dialed it in a bit, but never really cleaned it up to where it was clean and well rounded.  Kravitz was one of the “oh, he did that too….” acts.  Lots of stuff I’d forgotten it was him.  A few new (I think) cuts.  But, his 45 minute set hit the high points….”Fly Away”, “Let Love Rule”, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” and his cover of “American Woman”.  His only misstep seemed to be choosing to try and engage the audience to sing along to “Let Love Rule”…it was a U2 crowd and I don’t think the majority of the audience had a clue to the lyrics….”American Woman” or “Fly Away” would have both been easier for the crowd to latch onto.  Not a bad opener, just not a challenging one…I’d have loved to have Snow Patrol, Muse or Florence and the Machine who all have opened shows on this tour for U2.

Speaking of U2:

Here's my view for the show

It was a very different show from the Rose Bowl in 2009.  If one can call any stadium show “intimate”, it would be this one.  Somehow the gestures felt less over the top and the scale felt more human.  The set list was very different as well.  Four songs from No Line on the Horizon remained in the set.  “Magnificent”, “I’ll Go Crazy”, “Get on Your Boots” and the set closing “Moment of Surrender”.

Songs that were eliminated: “Breathe”, “Unknown Caller” (sadly since it was a song that really came to life at the Rose Bowl when played live), “In a Little While”, “MLK”, “Stuck in a Moment”…and maybe the biggest omission of all…”I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”….(Seems a huge miss to eliminate that, but overall Joshua Tree was very ignored this time around).

The set opened with a double blast of “Even Better Than the Real Thing” and “I Will Follow” in the same order as the Rose Bowl show, “Get on Your Boots”/”Magnificent”/”Mysterious Ways”.

There was a nice moment with Bono and the Edge doing an acoustic version of “Stay (Faway, So Close)” that lead to a sublime “Beautiful Day” and then “Pride (In the Name of Love)” which was dedicated to Maria Shriver who he said was in attendance tonight.

“Miss Sarajevo” and “Zooropa” were solid in the middle of the set, leading to a pair of Vertigo songs, “City of Blinding Lights” and “Vertigo”.  The set closed with a salute to the now freed Ann Suu Kyi and a plea for the other political prisoners in Burma to be freed.  During the encore break they played a video of her thanking U2 fans and leading into a great double punch of “One” and “Where the Streets Have No Name”.

The last encores were “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”, “With or Without You” and ending with “Moment of Surrender”.

The biggest thing I noticed tonight, aside from the cool technical parts.  Was how music from a specific time or place seems to resonate back so clearly.  Elevation was released during a rough time or me, and that somehow gave the songs from that album a greater impact to move me.  “Beautiful Day” and “Walk On” were both able to bring a hint of tear to my eye, simply because of the association with that time….and they were both damn good versions.  But, so was “I Will Follow” and it didn’t hit me in the same way.

The fellow next to me had gone to his first concert and seen them on the Joshua Tree tour in the 80’s.  He’d flown in with his wife from Austin to see the show and see So Cal.  The couple on the other side had also seen them previously back when they were in high school, I noticed that we all reacted slightly more or less to different songs.  Which I assume links back to life experiences and the way we each connected different songs into the fabric of out lives.  I guess that’s another cool thing about live music.  50,000 people there tonight all had a unique and different experience even from the folks who were standing right next to them.

A  great show and wonderful time…even with the struggle back to the car on a wobbly wheel with a broken spoke.

Tomorrow night I’ll see them one more time on this tour, and a week from tonight, I have friends who will see them at Glastonbury…I envy them that experience, but I can’t complain.  I got a darn good show and didn’t have to buy camping gear this time.

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