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U2 at Angels Stadium: Concert Review

U2 360 tour
Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

The Bottom Line

A monstrous production befitting the world's highest grossing tour still somehow emits a sense of intimacy. 

Venue

June 17, 2011 (Angels Stadium, Anaheim)

A behemoth undertaking befitting a band that has always said it wanted to be the world’s biggest, U2’s 360-degree tour is already the highest grossing traveling rock show in history. But besides being a feather in the band’s ambition cap, it leaves the foursome in a unique position of being arguably the only group today (along with possibly Bruce Springsteen) that can rightfully compete with both the Rolling Stones and Arcade Fire. In essence, the U2 of 2011 defies boundaries of any kind, be it generational or genre-related, the band is truly in a class of its own. 

But prolonging and continually promoting their cool cred for a fourth decade straight has also subjected the band, and especially its frontman, to a great deal of backlash, particularly among certain older fans who’ve poked fun at “St. Bono” and the band’s lavish stage productions like Zoo TV and the Popmart tour.

To that end, the 360 tour is another grand production. Among the bells and whistles of the claw-like structure: giant ornaments that brighten the night sky when fully lit, a swinging microphone that Bono rode in a Tarzan moment, and a cartoon aliens comic elaborate enough to be made into a George Lucas Adult Swim cartoon. Not to mention the ginormous LED video screen that receives video messages from space via NASA Commander Mark E. Kelly and world leaders like Burmese political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, who was elected president of the country and then held under house arrest.

At Friday’s Angels Stadium gig, Bono also dedicated “Beautiful Day” to Arizona senator Gabrielle Giffords and “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” to Maria Shriver. And during a powerful “Walk On,” Amnesty volunteers surrounded the stage holding candles with the Amnesty logo.  

At its best moments -- and there were so, so many -- the show instantly brought back that magical feeling of old U2 gigs, be it with the sublime beauty of “Miss Sarajevo,” possibly the night’s high point, the always spine-tingling “Where The Streets Have No Name,” a glorious “Moment Of Surrender,” the anthemic “Walk On,” and the thrilling call to yesteryear, “I Will Follow,” from their debut album, 1980’s Boy.

It helped that the actual stage itself, with the exception of its several bridges reaching to different corners of the venue, was relatively no-frills. To bring the audience into the band’s world, old videos showing U2 in the early 1980s and during the Joshua Tree era were very sweet, and Friday’s show featured an extra-special moment when the band’s longtime manager Paul McGuiness set foot on a U2 stage -- the first time ever, according to Bono. The occasion: McGuiness’ 60th birthday, which called for an appreciative serenade by the band and the audience.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the production, though, is that the much documented and hyped four-tentacled structure engulfing the band and those closest in the pit actually does succeed in giving off the feeling of intimacy. Yes, while in a stadium setting and among 70,000 fans, at times if felt as if it was just the band and its music -- an apt reminder of why U2 earned the title of biggest band in the world.

SET LIST

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
Stay (Faraway So Close)
Beautiful Day
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Miss Sarajevo
Zooropa
City Of Blinding Lights
Vertigo
Crazy Tonight
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Scarlet
Walk On
One
Where The Streets Have No Name
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
With Or Without You
Moment Of Surrender