Opening show Muse came onstage with a burst of light and the loud crashing of chords. Band members of the alternative, “space age rock” group Matthew Bellamy, Christopher Wolstenholme, and Dominic Howard seemed to rely on reverberations and electronics more than technical skill. Muse favored scale-like melodies and a background of power chords that lead’s singer Bellamy’s voice could not quite conquer (he specialized in Radiohead-like wailing with more articulation). The light-show special effects were on the megatron were a little off-putting; it was as if the band had no merit without zooming green grids and color manipulation.
When U2 finally came on stage, the entire crowd leapt to its feet. Even non-U2 supporters can admit the sheer energy of their fans. Guitar and keyboard player The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton, and drummer Larry Mullen, Jr all made dramatic entrances to much fanfare, but Bono made his debut to the most yelling of all.
However, the initial screaming and excitement was followed by some awkward and obligatory head-bobbing when U2 launched immediately into their new songs. The older songs actually initiated some reaction. When “Elevation” was finally played, there came the sweet sound of fifty-five thousand people singing a note out of their range. At the opening strains of “Vertigo,” the crowd thrashed around wildly, and at “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” everyone shrieked (both before, during, and after singing the first two verses). But when “Stuck in a Moment” came on, the entire stadium got lost in the sad peacefulness of nostalgia, and I actually saw one woman press her hands to her heart after the line, “Don’t say that later will be better.” When set to the simple scrambling of three notes, that line was like kryptonite to otherwise stoic listeners.
Unlike Muse, U2 didn’t feel the need for the lightshow, but they did use their claw-like structure to its full capacity. It transformed into a tye-dyed spider, ritzy Las Vegas opulence, and a ghostly pearly white, among many, many more—but what was most shocking was that the megatron expanded slowly downward. Honeycomb-esque holes formed so that the megatron was a longer, trellis-like incarnation of its earlier self.
Politics, it seemed, was a major theme for U2. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” yelled Bono at one point, and that we hope for “an America that is big enough to fit the whole world.” He repeated “a non-violent revolution” several times in a softer voice. The crowd quieted down when Amnesty International members fanned out onstage; the stadium full of people was at a loss as to whether it should cheer or not. Whenever Bono slipped in references to Charlottesville or Virginia or Wahoos, the crowd knew to cheer, but U2’s emphasis on politics took away some of the comfortability that the crowd had previously taken pleasure in.
The crowd fought for its two encores with the waving of cell phones (the stadium looked like a glowing plant swaying underwater) and more screaming. Three people wrapped in the Irish flag hiked it up and waved it ecstatically until at long last U2 came back on. These two encores consisted of one U2 favorite each: “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “With or Without You.”
After the second encore, the crowd filtered out of the stadium in droves, many still chattering about the megatron, some commenting on the evolution of Bono’s voice into a tired echo. It was the chorus of the crowd favorite “Beautiful Day” that three blonde girls were humming as they negotiated the exit, “sky falls, you feel like it’s a beautiful day.” The stadium was still a-glow behind me as the crowd left, still singing.