U2 - Wembley, Friday August 14, 2009
For a short time, Wembley Stadium is a spaceship, U2's titanic Claw stage is an alien deposited on the turf and 88,000 people are piloting a craft in orbit round Bono's ego.
Outside, a braying voice blurts from loud speakers: "Get ready for the big boys!" "The greatest band in the world..." "The concert of the year..." If anything were capable of pricking the swollen balloon of Bono's confidence it would be this stream of superlatives. But then for many, U2 probably are the greatest live band in the world.
On the approach to the stadium, Blackberry tents line the way like traders attending the court of the merchandising kings. This tie-up with the mobile manufacturer makes sense when you remember Bono and the Edge gyrating in silhouette for an iPod commercial. U2 are salesmen as much as they are artists - this is rock'n'roll as brand synergy.
But the hordes of bright eyed fans clad in brand new tour t-shirts and faded relics of the War and Boy album sleeves aren't distracted by the Blackberry babes and their pocket email machines. They know what they want and what they want is With Or Without You, One, Even Better Than The Real Thing. They will not be disappointed.
A glimpse at an early draft of the night's setlist reveals the band's military precision ("Kingdom intro - 1.58 [Larry up US stair @1.20/ Bono, Adam + Edge from quick change @1.58). The lights dim and there he is, Larry Mullen Jnr at his drum riser exactly 1.20 into the intro.
He begins pounding at his drums alone, a marshall beat bringing the opener Breathe to life. Then the rest are suddenly there - Bono, a rockstar shrunk in the hot wash, all at once a preacher, a poet and a charlatan huckster.
No Line On The Horizon looms into view next and as the band pull poses on the vast video screens, the live footage looks like cuts from a perfectly poised concert film. Few musicians outside the crumbling majesty of The Rolling Stones have such a complete understanding of the rockstar move - Bono busts out the crucifixion pose, Edge leans back just so to pull off a guitar solo and Adam Clayton is...well...Adam Clayton - a man who has dated supermodels despite having a face that even his mother must forget.
Get On Your Boots careens out of the speakers. When it was premiered last year at the Grammys, there was something underwhelming about this grammatically dubious single. But now there's a new dynamism to the playing, the same adrenalin rush as Vertigo delivers, a big dumb rock song with Bono peacocking his way around the circular stage. He loves the camera but it oddly squirms away from its master, as if the image of him gurning is too much for it too.... (continued)
Words: Mic Wright
12:58 PM | 17/08/2009
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