When I was first told U2 was coming to town, I wasn’t that excited. I have never known much about rock music and don’t feel as though I have really any knowledge about bands, especially bands pre-Ace of Base (which is why I am in this class). But I agreed to go, but was not overly thrilled. Admittedly, I was even crabby about the prospect of seeing “old men” dance around on stage. Part of the comedy of my preconceived notions is that I had U2 completely mixed with Aerosmith who did a Super Bowl performance that I felt fell short. Finally, the night before the concert I had it all straight; Bono sang in U2, Bon Jovi was completely different, and Aerosmith was also a separate entity. Needless to say I had no to low expectations.
The minute I beheld the massive claw shaped stage, I knew this wasn’t going to be boring at the very minimum. It turned out that watching U2 in their massive stage and overwhelming audience under the stars at Scott Stadium made the perfect first impression. Not only was the structure itself a masterpiece, the number of yellow shirted people working the concert was amazing. The audience was controlled like well organized machine and the time and ingenuity it took to pull off such an event made me awestruck.
The fans in my section of seating left something to be desired but spoke to the massive audience is able to reach. I was in the “old people” section (see a trend?) so the stands were full of children, families, and even grandparents. Most were white but the age, gender and class make-up of the audience was expansive. There were men in navy sport coats and khaki pants with their plastic bejeweled wives as well as students from a wide breadth of schools, representing a good portion of cultural make-up of the white classes in and around Charlottesville.
After a mass amount of people watching, while waiting for U2 to grace the stage, the band made their entrance. The music was what I’d classify as very rock and therefore very masculine. The band members had a gritty, ragged look and tended to position their guitars to indicate the instruments as an extension of the male anatomy. There were large instrumental sections that focused around the guitar. One of the highlights was the drummer solo. The art, skill and ease the drummer used to bang out his powerful solo was like nothing I’ve ever seen. Bono’s singing was passionate and very performance based visible through his exaggerated facial expressions.
The stage moving and blinking in tandem with the loud (and familiar) songs created an almost alien effect. It felt as though U2 was beamed down from their large claw-stage and was transporting the audience, creating a fusion of the rock and the technological world. The stage was used to emphasize the message and feeling of the song. A slower, more serious song had slower more “blue” images rolling over the screen in contrast to more upbeat songs that had vibrant frantic colors racing around the screens. U2 was able to use the stage to signal tonal shifts and provide structure for the concert.
Toward the last quarter of the concert, U2 combine the music movement with political and social struggles. They told of a story of a captured woman and had a powerful live art display of fifty plus kids holding masks up to their faces and walking the perimeter of the stage. Poetry, music, visual art and politics combined to create an all encompassing sensation for the senses. U2 used their stardom to reach millions of their audience members for a cause beyond entertainment. The whole effect was very powerful.
One complaint is that the advertised 360 tour was presented as a concert that could be appreciated from every angle, however there were definitely expensive seats that did not get nearly as much face time with Bono mostly due to the lopsided orientation of the stage. Had I been sitting and watching the back of the band for all but 10 minutes of the 2 or so hours, I would’ve been disappointed and had a different experience.
I am glad I took the time and made the effort to see U2. I will never get them confused with Bon Jovi or Aerosmith ever again and have morphed from an indifferent follower to fan.