Thursday, June 30, 2011

Music review: Despite the wait, U2 finds true believers in Miami

Bono and bassist Adam Clayton of U2,‭ ‬ seen from the screen at Sun Life Stadium on Wednesday night.‭ (‬Photo by Gretel Sarmiento‭)

By Gretel Sarmiento

For a country said to struggle with numbers,‭ ‬math and science,‭ ‬nobody is getting U2‭ ‬360‭ ‬degrees wrong.‭

At least in South Florida,‭ ‬everyone got what they came for.‭

The electrifying‭ ‬Irish‭ ‬band’s‭ ‬360°‭ ‬Tour,‭ ‬with its supernatural stage,‭ ‬landed at Miami’s Sun Life stadium Wednesday night.‭ ‬One hour after the‭ ‬English‭ ‬indie rock band Florence and the Machine ended its magical opening performance,‭ ‬the knights from Dublin were still nowhere to be seen.‭ ‬The crowd grew impatient.‭ ‬When they finally came out,‭ ‬a little after‭ ‬9‭ ‬p.m.,‭ ‬it was with‭ ‬Even Better Than the Real Thing that they decided to open the night.‭

It was one big happy crowd,‭ ‬despite the few rain drops that did materialize,‭ ‬and the sticky humid weather.

‭“‬Thank you,‭ ‬Miami.‭ ‬Muchas gracias.‭ ‬And thank for your patience,‭” ‬Bono‭ ‬said‭ ‬between songs.‭ “‬Some of you were two years younger when you bought tickets.‭”

He was referring to his back injury and surgery,‭ ‬which caused the‭ ‬Miami appearance the band had scheduled for last year to be delayed,‭ ‬and those who had bought tickets months before to wait even longer.

During the show Bono spoke to the people,‭ ‬engaging them and getting up close and personal with them.‭ ‬This is,‭ ‬after all,‭ ‬a band that once shared its long locks of hair and is not afraid to now show its wrinkles.

‭“‬We are not ready to retire,‭” ‬said Bono,‭ ‬proudly,‭ ‬before breaking into‭ ‬I‭ ‬Still‭ ‬Haven’t‭ ‬Found‭ ‬What I’m‭ ‬Looking For from‭ ‬The Joshua Tree album.‭ ‬Here the crowd joined in as well.‭

The Edge and Larry Mullen,‭ ‬on the big screen.‭
(‬Photo by Gretel Sarmiento‭)

The set list included:‭ ‬You Are the Real Thing,‭ ‬The Fly,‭ ‬Mysterious Ways,‭ ‬Sunday Bloody Sunday,‭ ‬Where the Streets Have No‭ ‬Name‭ ‬and plenty more.‭ ‬But the biggest surprise of the night was a little love song called‭ ‬North Star,‭ ‬which,‭ ‬Bono said,‭ ‬has never been played before in North America.‭ ‬It is also being featured in the‭ ‬Transformers:‭ ‬Dark of the Moon‭ ‬film coming out soon.‭ ‬As all good songs,‭ ‬it will take time for it to grow on us.‭ ‬The crowd loved it,‭ ‬but not as much as old favorites.‭

With each song people of all ages grew more‭ ‬hypnotized.‭ ‬Those who had seemed shy earlier,‭ ‬with daylight,‭ ‬loosened up as soon as it got dark.‭ ‬They bounced from their seats and against one another while singing along and holding up their palms wide open.‭ ‬Nobody seemed to mind their personal space or if a boundary had been crossed.‭ ‬There were no boundaries.‭

It helped that the stage,‭ ‬a mechanic sea star-like creature nicknamed The Claw,‭ ‬felt like another member of the band.‭ ‬The steel creature,‭ ‬which cost‭ ‬$25‭ ‬million,‭ ‬was meant to deliver an intimate atmosphere.‭ ‬It did the job,‭ ‬and so far it keeps gathering attention everywhere its tentacles spread.‭

On this particular night,‭ ‬it appeared to be feeding off from the energy given by South Florida fans.‭ ‬The roof colors changed with each song,‭ ‬alternating between green,‭ ‬purple,‭ ‬red,‭ ‬orange and blue.‭ ‬Two bridges extending to the lucky mass at ground level allowed for some special moments,‭ ‬such as when Bono and The Edge reached out to each other from different sides while singing‭ ‬Until the End of the World.‭

The sophisticated giant TV screen delivered unimaginable surprises,‭ ‬including a personalized greeting from‭ ‬NASA Commander‭ ‬Mark E.‭ ‬Kelly‭ (“‬Hello,‭ ‬Miami‭”) ‬that shocked everyone,‭ ‬and another from‭ ‬Aung San Suu Kyi,‭ ‬the Burmese political prisoner.‭ ‬The sound emanating from the machine’s speakers was at times too powerful and drowned lyrics here and there.‭ ‬Even so,‭ ‬people followed the band,‭ ‬track by track,‭ ‬making up whatever lyrics they could not recall.‭

With all the amazing technicalities and special effects,‭ ‬The Claw still was no match for the‭ ‬thousands of passionate fans,‭ ‬who gave the band everything they had:‭ ‬their screams,‭ ‬voices,‭ ‬arms in the air,‭ ‬applauses.‭ ‬They even lent their cellphones,‭ ‬holding them up open to simulate a night sky full of stars when Bono asked them to.‭ ‬This was while a motivating‭ ‬Walk On played and Amnesty volunteers came out holding candles until the stage was all surrounded by them.‭

In the end,‭ ‬it wasn’t so much the brilliantly and expensively conceived stage that gave that intimate feeling,‭ ‬but the being there in the moment,‭ ‬as part of a sea of people who wanted the same thing:‭ ‬to be part of U2,‭ ‬in some way.‭ ‬That’s why they sang along and stood for most of the show,‭ ‬and why they went along with the commentary.‭

“Irish people are like Latin people who don’t know how to dance,‭” ‬said Bono,‭ ‬making the crowd laugh.‭ “‬Actually,‭ ‬there is an exception.‭ ‬The Edge can dance.‭” ‬He refused to give a demonstration,‭ ‬even though Bono practically begged him.‭

U2,‭ ‬above and below.‭
(‬Photo by Gretel Sarmiento‭)

For this show,‭ ‬the singer wore a black leather jacket while The Edge wore his serious face and dark beanie.‭ ‬The rest of the band,‭ ‬Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen,‭ ‬were dressed in white.‭ ‬It was not always that way,‭ ‬as an old footage played later on in the show,‭ ‬from the band’s‭ ‬Joshua Tree days,‭ ‬reminded us.‭ ‬In it,‭ ‬Bono lacks the cool glasses and The Edge wears a long brown coat and black hat.

Aside from the nostalgic film,‭ ‬the night carried other highlights such as when rays of light shot up from the top of the stage brightening the night sky.‭ ‬Another was when‭ ‬Bono decided to swing off the stage holding on to a red glowing microphone as if he were a kid riding an old car tire.

By the end of the show I really wanted to believe Lisa Hayes,‭ ‬a native of‭ ‬Missouri whose parents are Irish and who‭ ‬has seen the band at least‭ ‬10‭ ‬times.‭ ‬At the beginning of the show she and others had explained to me that a U2‭ ‬concert is really a religious experience and how people walk out feeling overwhelmed with a collective feeling of love and positive energy.‭

“You feel their music is about helping each other,‭ ‬not just stumping over people to get to where you need,‭” ‬Hayes said.

Surely this show,‭ ‬along with Bono’s screams for‭ ‬freedom,‭ ‬peace and love,‭ ‬had transformed us all and turned us,‭ ‬automatically,‭ ‬into better‭ ‬individuals.‭ ‬But one look at the traffic exiting the parking lot proved the whole theory wrong and had me wishing that The Claw had never lifted off‭ ‬--‭ ‬or at least,‭ ‬had‭ ‬swallowed us all.‭

Florence and the Machine performs under the giant claw.‭
(‬Photo by Gretel Sarmiento‭)


Even Better Than‭ ‬the Real Thing; The Fly; Mysterious Ways; Until the End of the World; I Will Follow; Get On Your Boots; I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For; The Promised Land; North Star; Beautiful Day‭ (‬with fragments of Space Oddity‭); Elevation; Pride‭ ‬In The Name of Love; Miss Sarajevo; Zooropa; City of Blinding Lights; Vertigo; I'll Go Crazy; Sunday Bloody Sunday; Scarlet; Walk On


One; Will You Love Me Tomorrow; Where the Streets Have No Name; Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me; With or Without You; Moment of Surrender

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