U2 Vertigo Tour: Pittsburgh, PA: October 22, 2005
Some things in life improve with age and I would submit that a U2 concert is one of them. With over two decades under their belt and an average age of over 40 years U2 still knows how to bring down the house -- perhaps better now than ever before. Mind you, this is not a band putting on a "greatest hits" or "reunion" tour but a band that is putting out new material that they (and their fans) believe in. U2 has asserted that they believe this is some of their best material. Granted, what band wouldn't say something like this but U2 does more than just saying it -- the play it like they mean it.
The October 22 Pittsburgh concert was over two hours in length and the band played an extensive 23 song setlist including seven (of the 11) songs from their latest release, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb." They played many well-known favorites along with some older, lesser-known fan-favorites (the kind of songs that only hard-core fans can sing along with). It was a perfect mix for seasoned fans and new-comers alike.
The show opened with an electrifying performance of City of Blinding Lights followed by Vertigo. The band continued relentlessly through Elevation, I Will Follow, and The Electric Co. before letting up (slightly) with I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. After Beautiful Day they slowed things up a bit with Miracle Drug and Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own -- a beautifully emotional performance dedicated to Bono's deceased father, Bob Hewson, for whom, and about whom, the song was written. He prefaced the song by talking about his father -- the working class Dublin man who loved the opera and would sit and listen to the opera on the radio in the living room and conduct with the knitting needles. At the close of the song Bono broke into a few opera refrains while waving his arms in the air (conducting motions). It was quite touching.
The band returned with three political heavy hitters -- Love and Peace or Else, Sunday Bloody Sunday, and Bullet the Blue Sky. Of course, what is a U2 concert without some politics? Bono talked about the One campaign to help eliminate disease and poverty in developing nations. Also, during what I call the "political segment" Bono talked about how we (the religions of the world) need to learn to co-exist. He wore a headband with the logo below -- the crescent moon of Islam, the star of David, and the cross of Christianity.
Bono is a performer in the truest sense of the word. One does not go to a U2 concer to see him sing. One goes to see him perform. He has a special way (don't ask me how) of connecting with an audience. It's what makes seeing U2 live so special: It's not a concert, it's an experience. Somehow the band can take a crowd of 50,000 and make it feel like 2,000. In the earlier years he was more active on the stage with raw energy but I tend to think that his energy today is equally potent, just more focused. I honestly don't know these guys can get up and play for nearly two solid hours night in and night out. I was exhausted by the end of the show and I was just in the crowd for one show!!
Another of the evening's highlights was Miss Sarajevo, a song which (recorded) features Luciano Pavarotti singing two solos in Italian. At the concert Bono announced that unfortunately Pavarotti wasn't able to attend but was celebrating his (Pavarotti's) birthday. Bono sang the opera parts himself (in Italian) quite beautifully. It was amazing, especially considering that he sounded a bit hoarse during the first few numbers but by this point seemed to be singing with ease.
A couple of interesting moments of the performance: 1. While out on the end of the ellipse (the b-stage) doing an acoustic number with The Edge Bono received a request from a fan to sign an autograph. He said, "I think this is a U2 first -- signing an autograph during a concert." He smiled, signed the pad, and then handed it over to a smiling Edge who signed it and returned it. 2. During the second encore Bono invited a fan up to play with the band. Apparently he had been holding up a sign that indicated he wanted to play Party Girl with the band. As the individual was making his way up Bono turned to the band and said, "We've got live one Edge." The man from the crowd, Alan, didn't seem nervous at all and really started to jam. It was certainly a night he'll never forget.
I was pleasantly surprised by a few songs in the setlist. For example, I was afraid that a song like Elevation might end up being relegated to the Elevation tour never again to see the light of day in a concert. It was wonderful to hear it again. It is one of those songs that brings down the house at a U2 concert. Miss Sarajevo was a surprise. The Electric Co. was amazing. It's a song that a lot of people who don't know old school U2 stuff aren't familiar with. It sounded great.
The band closed with another older hit, 40 -- based on the fortieth Psalm (first three verses). I was ecstatic! This was a song that closed so many of their earlier concerts but I never figured I would hear it live. The song ends with a repeated chorus maintained by the audience. The band continued to play as they left one at a time -- Bono, Adam, The Edge, and finally Larry (after a small drum solo). A perfect end to a perfect evening. Thanks again guys.
How long to sing this song . . .
The complete setlist:
City of Blinding Lights
I Will Follow
The Electric Co.
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own
Love and Peace or Else
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Bullet the Blue Sky
Where the Streets Have No Name
The First Time
Stuck in a Moment
With or Without You
All Because of You
Final Score: 5 Cents
Music: U2 Vertigo Tour
U2 Vertigo Tour: Pittsburgh, PA: October 22, 2005