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U2 Concert Review
San Diego, CA

by: John Paulsen

Paulsen Home / CD Reviews Home / Entertainment Channel / Entertainment Web Guide

In the second of two shows at the newly named IPayOne Center (the former name – San Diego Sports Arena – apparently didn’t bring in as much annual revenue), the self-proclaimed ‘greatest band in the world’ did what they always do – they put on a good show. Armed with a similar stripped-down stage setup as last year’s Elevation jaunt, it seems that the band wants this year’s tour to have more meaning and, hopefully, to affect more change.

Given this end, I was surprised by the choice of opener as the trite “City of Blinding Lights” with its lyrics “oh you look so beautiful tonight” didn’t have the emotional jolt that the band seems to be aiming for with the tour. The terrific “Love and Peace or Else,” performed later, would have been a much better beginning. The band was strong on “Vertigo” – in fact, all of the songs off the new album (How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb) played better live – before delving into their distant past with “The Electric Co.” (from their 1980 album Boy) and “Gloria” (from 1981’s October). “With or Without You” made a surprise appearance; it was left out of the show two nights prior. At one point Bono quipped, “Monday night was just a rehearsal” which predictably garnered a big cheer from the crowd. I doubt all those fans that forked over $163 per ticket for the first show would be very happy to hear him say that.

Last year’s tour had a heart-shaped walkway that jutted out into the general admission floor area. This year’s version is an ellipse, which Bono referred to as the “bomb shelter.” Bono made several trips around the circumference, and seemed to relish the personal contact with the fans. The excitement was palpable when The Edge, the band’s guitarist and other major creative force, decided to hit the walkway. The third and fourth members of U2, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen, each had one appearance on the catwalk. Above the stage were four video screens, one for each of the band members. The best addition to this year’s tour is a light curtain, which is capable of displaying text, color and images. The curtain wasn’t used often, but when it was, it was effective.

The band moved with ease through tour regulars “New Year’s Day” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” the latter not having quite the same emotional impact the fifth time you’ve seen it performed. The deeply personal “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” featured Bono at his most understated, forgoing all the theatrics for a moment to focus solely on singing the song. However, his political heavy-handedness was readily apparent during the aforementioned “Love and Peace or Else” and Joshua Tree’s “Bullet The Blue Sky.” At one point, Bono sang with a blindfold on – complete with religious symbols – while the light curtain displayed images of fighter jets flying overhead.

The beautiful “Running to Stand Still” (also off Joshua Tree) allowed Bono to hammer his point home. After the song, the big screens above the stage ran through the eight articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which were adopted by the United Nations in 1948. The band approached the end of the main set with two Achtung Baby cuts, the industrial “Zoo Station” and “The Fly,” before wrapping up with last year’s tour opener, “Elevation.”

After a short break, the band reemerged with three live favorites: “Pride,” the wonderful “Where The Streets Have No Name” and the crowd-favorite “One.” The latter included a plug for the band’s One Campaign – its ambitious mission is to enlist one million Americans to work in Africa. Next, the band played two of the better songs off Bomb, the catchy “All Because of You” and the uplifting “Yahweh.” And, in one of the best moments of the entire night, the band finished the show 80’s-style with “40”; each member of the band walks off separately, leaving Mullen to lay down the beat while the crowd sings “How long to sing this song.”

While I’d make several changes if given the power, it’s hard to find fault in the setlist. The band has to walk the fine line of pushing new material while also satisfying long-time die-hards as well as the casual fans. The show did go by a bit quickly, especially given the prices some of the fans had to pay to gain admission, but the sheer energy and talent present on stage made for an enjoyable experience*.


City of Blinding Lights
Cry / The Electric Co.
Beautiful Day
With or Without You
New Year's Day
Miracle Drug
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
Love and Peace or Else
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still
Zoo Station
The Fly


Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Where the Streets Have No Name
All Because of You

*My only major complaint was the difficulty of actually getting into the arena. The doors were supposed to open at 6:30, but when I arrived at 6:45 the general admission line was not moving. I didn’t get into the arena until 7:45 and, as a result, missed the first two songs by the Kings of Leon. The problem was with the pat-down process. There were six or seven security people patting fans down and in front of them there were three or four more members of security metering the pat-down line. Every so often they’d let 12-15 fans through to fill up the pat-down queue, which is fine, but – and this is the ponderous part – they’d wait until all the pat-down security people were free before sending more people up. This means that as the last person was patted-down, there were six other security people standing idle. Then they’d all have to wait while the next group of fans ascended the stairs. This asinine process and the resulting wait time affected every single person in line and caused many to miss the beginning of the show. 

Send any questions, comments or wine stories to jpaulsen@bullz-eye.com




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