“ 2010 world tour of the superband U2. „
== What? ==
The 360 Tour is the latest record-breaking spectacle from (arguably) the world's greatest rock band show casing the musical talents of the Dublin foursome on an innovative stage affording views of the stage from anywhere in the stadium by effectively playing "in the round". Featuring tracks from the latest album "No Line on the Horizon", Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr, have devised a 2 and a half hour light and sound show unlike anything I have ever seen before.
== The Band ==
Having been around for more than 30 years, chances are you know who these guys are by now. Bono sings lead vocals and writes lyrics, The Edge provides the musical genius behind the group on guitar and occasionally keyboards, Adam Clayton plays bass guitar and Larry Mullen plays drums. Old Father Time has been kind to these dubliners and they are still able to leap around and have a good time, working the crowd like the pros they are.
== The Claw ==
The Claw is the defining feature of the 360 tour; a 166-foot tall, four-legged steel monster which straddles the stage, reminiscent of the tripods from War of the Worlds. Mounted in the £20 million claw are several hundred tons of audio and lighting equipment, an enormous lightning-proof mirror ball and a round video "wall" which displays live feeds of what is happening on stage in addition to graphics and lyrics. The screen is specially designed to afford anyone in the stadium a close-up view of the performers, but also to lengthen and shorten during the light show extravaganza (I've always wanted to use that word!). It is very hard to describe just how big this thing is and I strongly recommend you check out the links at the end of this piece to see why it is so hard to describe The Claw.
== The Stage ==
Standing under the claw is the central stage upon which most of the action takes place. Running in a full circle around the central stage is an outer catwalk, joined to the inner stage by two moving bridges. Each member of the band, including Larry the drummer venture out across the bridges onto the catwalk a number of times allowing the audience to get a better view of the performers. Between the inner and outer stages is an area known as "The Pit" where 2000 of the most committed fans (those crazy enough to queue up over night) can get into the centre of the action.
== The Red Zone ==
On each side of the outer stage was a special standing area called "The Red Zone". During the ticket sale period, an auction was run allowing people to bid on "special" tickets which would afford them access to these standing areas which negated the need to queue for 18 hours to be near the stage because a very limited number (300) were sold. Red Zone ticket holders were also treated to their own toilet block, pre-show seating, a dedicated refreshment section and loads of elbow room. My Red Zone tickets cost me £150 each and Ticket Thief (whoops, I mean "Master") were not allowed to rob me for a handling fee. Best of all, the entire proceeds from my ticket fee are donated from the band directly to the (Red) charity and I got a place on the rail next to the catwalk.
== The Setlist ==
A mixture of old and new which pleases fans but tends to confuse those unfamiliar with U2's album tracks. Personally I was knew all the tracks and was happy to sing along although I did hear many other people there asking each other what was being played. The songs on offer were:
No Line on the Horizon
Get on your Boots
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Stuck in a Moment (You Can't Get Out of)
City of Blinding Lights
I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (Remix)
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Pride (In the Name of Love)
Where the Streets Have No Name
and for encore...
With or Without You
Moment of Surrender
== Highlights ==
Apart from the amazing Claw, the incredible volume of sound (I love to feel the music in my chest!) and the lightshow:
~~~ 1. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For ~~~
As soon as The Edge started playing the intro to this song, the record-breaking crowd of 88,000 took up vocals and sang the first verse leaving Bono (unusually) speechless and me with a shiver up my spine. To hear so many people singing a song of a spiritual journey briefly turned Wembley into a cathedral and reminded me that this is what church SHOULD be like!
~~~ 2. Unforgettable Fire ~~~
Despite much of the crowd seeming to have no idea what was going on (there seemed to be a lot of people unfamiliar with U2's "early"(!) work there), Bono et al bashed this one out with a maniacal enthusiasm.
~~~ 3. City of Blinding Lights ~~~
The video wall mounted under the Claw came into it's own at this point, extending downwards towards the stage and blasting out white light and filling the darkened stadium. Blinding Lights is a "new" classic and was greeted with great enthusiasm.
~~~ 4. I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight ~~~
A mental techno remix of the latest U2 single saw the entire band doing a lap of the outer stage, including Larry, who temporarily abandoned his drum kit in favour of a djemba allowing us all to get a glimpse of the reclusive drummer.
~~~ 5. Walk On ~~~
Written in tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi, the imprisoned Burmese activist, Walk On was dedicated to said lady and the crowd were urged to put on masks of her face (which we had been issued with upon entry) as a form of protest against the tyranny of the Burmese government. U2 were joined on stage by a number of "volunteers" also wearing the mask. Seeing thousands of people in masks was kind of spooky...
~~~ 6. Mysterious Ways ~~~
One of my favourite U2 tracks and one they chose not to play last time I saw them in 2005. Included as a highlight just because I love the tune!
~~~ 7. Ultraviolet ~~~
Bono emerged onto the stage for the encore wearing a suit fitted with red lasers which sparked all across the arena as he leaped wildly and swung off a suspended microphone. A moment of ingenious theatre!
~~~ 8. Moment of Surrender ~~~
Bono asked the crowd to take out their phones and light up the screens whilst all the lights in the stadium were extinguished; Wembley turned into a Milky Way of tiny lights from top to bottom.
== Lowlights ==
Despite being an amazing event, there were some downsides:
~~~ 1. The crowd. ~~~
I do not know what it is about English audiences but they are the most unenthusiastic, disinterested punters I have ever shared a concert venue with. Sadly this apathy is not restricted to U2 fans either as I have had similar negative atmosphere at The Killers (O2 - London) and The Who (Wembley Arena - London). If I see U2 again I intend to go abroad because at least the crowd seem "up for it".
~~~ 2. The acoustics ~~~
Some genius decided to close the roof of Wembley over the stage leading to some awful acoustics, the echoing sound drowning out Bono's frequent addresses to the audience and leading to a lot of puzzled expressions as everyone tried to figure out what he was saying. Apparently the roof was open for the concert the following night.
~~~ 3. The price ~~~
Ah yes, the price. Tickets ranged from the reasonable £35 for a seat at the far end of the stadium on the upper tier, to £150 for a seat close to the stage (middle and lower tiers). Once Ticket Thief have robbed you of another £15 for "handling fees", £165 EACH is quite pricey. Someone called LiveNation is doing very well out of the 360 Tour thank you very much.
~~~ 4. The support acts. ~~~
The little known "The Hours" opened as the support act's support and proved that they will probably remain little known if they keep up the attitude and unwarranted swearing. The support act were current music industry favourites "Elbow" who, in my opinion, are overrated beyond belief and their music certainly does not fit a stadium setting.
== Merchandise ==
Items for sale included a vast array of t-shirts, some hats, posters, programs and a flag among other items. T-shirts cost £22 regardless of size and the program was another £15, in all I spent £59 on shirts and a program for my wife and I, which is pricey but we tend to collect t-shirts as mementos of the gigs we attend. Be warned that not all of the merchandise booths take payment cards and they do not put up signs to tell you that, the vendors wait until you get to the front of the very long queue.
== Overall ==
It is widely rumoured that U2 will be returning for another European leg of the 360 Tour and as such I would strongly recommend you try and catch it if it does as I have never seen a spectacle quite like it before or since.
=== Key info ===
What did it cost? After combining travel, food, tickets and merchandise, about £470 (gulp!)
Would I go again? Definitely, but preferably somewhere abroad like Poland.
What did it taste like? Water - beer was too expensive.
What did it smell like? Sweaty concert-goers and dry ice.
What did it sound like? 88,004 people gathered together for a raucous singalong in one of the world's largest sports stadiums.
What did it feel like? Being punched in the chest by some of the greatest music ever written.
Overall what was it like? Like church should be - joyous, exuberant and most of all damn good fun!
== Links ==
The Wembley gig at the BBC (including video): http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8202230.stm
U2's homepage: http://www.u2.com
U2 fan forums (and pictures of the Claw): http://u2.interference.com
© ben-lloyd 2009. This review may appear on other websites under the same user name.
Like a lot of people I was logged into ticketmaster waiting on the sale of tickets for the U2 360 tour and like a lot of people the system said 'not open', then a few refreshes later 'sold out'. So left with little alternative I thought it was going to have to be a bid on ebay. Then on one of the U2 forums someone mentioned that the (Red) zone auctions weren't going for much above the starting bids (£90 for UK and I think 90 Euro elsewhere). These (Red) zone tickets were for an area close to the stage, gave you access to seats pre-concert, access to your own toilets and to food and drink stands. The best thing about this though was that a large part of the bid was being donated to the (Red) charity which (as I understand it) primarily fights AIDS in Africa. So one bid later on ticketmaster and I had better tickets than I could have imagined.
Arriving in Glasgow at 3pm was interesting. Between the concert and the Celtic vs Arsenal game I couldn't get a seat on the train due to the crowds. Unfortunately I only caught the last song the support act (Glasvegas) played, as I seriously misjudged the distance to Hampden stadium from the centre of Glasgow and we spent too long in the Counting House pub soaking up the atmosphere.
Initial impressions of the (Red) zone were excellent. We were in a kind of pen that would have held 750-1000 people and there were only 70 of us in it. I expected it to fill up in the lead up to U2 coming on but it didn't, the auctions were obviously seriously in need of more advertising. So we had a ridiculous amount of space which seemed crazy when there were people being held behind a barrier 20ft behind us. The stage was unbelievable, shaped like a massive claw with various walkways and a massive screen up top. Try and find an image of it online, ideally a video to fully appreciate what a magnificent structure this is (or see it virtually at http://360.u2.com/). Annoyingly it became one of the problems. The (Red) zones are close in proximity to the stage but in the wrong position. Thinking it was a 360 degree concert (so it will be fine), proved to be completely incorrect. If you imagine being at the cinema and sitting at the edge of the front row then quadruple the width that's roughly where you are in terms of angles. So you feel like you are at the event but largely being ignored. All four band members did walk the perimeter at one point each. Bono didn't even make it past the bit we were at though. Really disappointing, especially when the bridges to the main stage would move between songs as if they were coming over this time but it never happened. To be fair they maybe didn't want the screens to capture what was a ridiculously empty area in a sold out concert.
The other annoyance was that we were too close to the stage to really take in the whole spectacle. The stage was above our head height so we had a poor view of it and as it was so close we had to choose to attempt to grab the odd glance of the band or to look up at the roof to see the screens.
That said this was the second best of the four U2 concerts I have been to. I was expecting it to be excellent as the current album is the best for a while so it meant there weren't going to be many bad tracks (only one as it turned out). The set list was
No Line On The Horizon
Get On Your Boots
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Stuck In A Moment (You Can't Get Out Of)
City of Blinding Lights
I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (Remix)
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Pride (In The Name of Love)
Where The Streets Have No Name
A break then lead into an encore of
With Or Without You
Moment of Surrender
This to my mind was an excellent choice and although I have personal favourites, I would rather have heard, I think they played a well rounded set. The set on this tour doesn't change too much, 90% of it will stay the same 'Bad' and some of the tracks from All That You Cant Leave Behind sometimes make an appearance.
There were many highlights on the night. The real stand outs were an extremely atmospheric Unforgettable Fire where the whole stadium was bathed in red light whilst the smoke generators added hugely to the atmosphere. A nice touch was when I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and the band took a back seat to allow the crowd to take the lead. I was pleasantly surprised by how in tune the crowd managed to be! The final and real highlight was the magnificent encore. These are three of my all time favourite tracks. Bono appeared in a jacket which had lights incorporated into it which was really unusual but worked well through Ultraviolet. With or Without You is always a standout and Moment of Surrender was the best concert closer since Love is Blindness finished the Zoo TV tour in 1993.
There was a disappointment when the sound system cut out during Walk On and the Glasgow crowd were surprisingly quick to vent their fury which I was a bit disappointed with. This only lasted 10 seconds or so but it happened at a bad time with Bono in full voice in his tribute to Aung San Auu Kyi, the Burmese politician who is being held under house arrest.
Another small disappointment was that U2.com had the set list up the following day and Mysterious Ways was meant to follow One in closing the opening set. This must have been planned but didn't happen for whatever reason. It's a track I love hearing live so it was a shame it was cut, presumably due to a late start.
The final disappointment is that you will see that I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight was a remix. This is a track which has grown and grown on me and will be the next single. I was expecting it to be interesting live and instead of those amazing opening notes I was given an absolute nonsense version of the track. I am still at a loss as to how anyone could think this was a good idea and this was the biggest disappointment of the night. Hopefully I will get to hear it properly, live one day.
This was an excellent concert and the issues I have highlighted were all that stopped it from being perfect. In reality you will never get a perfect view and the set list more than made up for it. The DVD will be spectacular though.
So to sum up is (Red) zone worth it? I would say definitely, there was no booking fee and the general admission tickets were £55 so we paid around double the general admission price but for this the experience was much better and hopefully most, if not all, of the extra went to the (Red) charity, I suspect it will as U2 are passionate supporters of this charity.
You can view a lot of fairly high definition clips on You Tube. I would jump at the chance of attending this if the tour comes near you.