Last week’s Live In Concert
I can never fully get my head around my fondness for U2. I’ll usually be first in line for some Bono bashing and their more recent output, namely No Line On The Horizon, left me a little cold. Yet they are and always will be one of my favourite bands, their music making itself heard in some huge moments in my life and at the end of it all I have immense pride that such a power house of a band came from this little island. Maybe my confusion towards them is just good old Irish begrudgery. Whatever it is, in 2005 they were the force to be reckoned with, and they showed it in their hometown over three nights in Croke Park.
Just to clarify one thing, the gig I’m about to right about and the second night I attended are not the same tour I was referring to at the end of last week’s piece! 2009 was lackluster but in 2005, U2 were working off the absolutely massive How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb album and were more in vogue than they have ever been in this century. They were the kings. For their Irish leg of the tour, as the most obvious location, Croke Park hosted the quartet for three nights. Their last appearance in Ireland was their record breaking stint at Slane – to say the pressure was on would be an understatement.
Strolling in for what was to become the first of many Croke Park gigs (and indeed the first of two that weekend) the size of the place just floored me. There really is only one place in this country to host the biggest band in the world. A small part of me even wondered if they would fill the place, audibly that is. No fear of that. After decent enough support from Radiators From Space (including a stellar “Faithful Departed”) and less than decent support from The Bravery, it was time for the main act. My father was there with me and he is a veteran of U2 live shows, from Cork to Dublin. I don’t think even he knew what was coming. Kicking off with “Vertigo”, the place went ballistic. From teens to tie dyes, everyone was just lapping it all up on a fine summer’s evening.
U2 will often tend to be a little more structured and straight forward with their set lists, something that comes from having such precise theatrics in their shows I suppose, but there was still a nice surprise on each night of the weekend. For us Friday attendees, it was “Running To Stand Still”. A song that encapsulates the hopelessness of life in Dublin in the eighties so perfectly, it was some moment. The sun setting behind the stadium, a chill rising in the air and despair emanating from the lyrics. Electric. On the Monday we got something a little more special (more on that next week) but this was a truly jaw dropping moment. The first encore run of “Zoo Station”, “The Fly” and “With Or Without You” was an odd but enjoyable little group, Followed then by a risky move, all of the three closing tracks coming from the new album. It is the sort of thing that can irritate the hell out of me sometimes but they got away with it here, mainly because the final track was another go at “Vertigo”. It was weird initially, something I’ve never seen another band do but I can actually suggest more should do it. They simply enjoyed playing it that much and the song was everywhere that summer, so why not play it till the wee hours?
Unfortunately this and next week’s Live In Concert serve as something of a eulogy if anything else, testament to the last time U2 were able to really bring it in public. But a band around as long as them, that have reinvented themselves and “dreamed it all up” as many times as they have can never be written off. Until then, the memory will have to do and it isn’t likely to go anywhere anytime soon.
Next week’s Live In Concert – U2, Croke Park, 2005 (Night 2)