Musings on music, sports, life in general from Quincy, Illinois.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Vertigo Review

NOTE: Much of this review was published 12/16/05 in the Quincy Herald-Whig. Used by permission, copywrite Quincy Newspapers Inc. 2005.

See the previous post for the complete set list.

By Rodney Hart
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

When the biggest band in the world came to the Savvis Center in St. Louis Wednesday night, and the lights went out, and guitarist The Edge started chattering the chords for City of Blinding Light, and lead singer Bono stood at the top of the ellipse runway stage, it was time - time for The Look.

Bono put his hands in the air as the confetti fell and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. joined bass player Adam Clayton to kick the song into overdrive. Bono sauntered down the runway back to the stage, looked into the crowd on the floor, and gave them The Look, a look only he can give. It's the rock star/world activist/choir leader/devious child/bus driver/cliff jumper look.
"Time to get ready, St. Louis," his eyes seemed to say - time to tear the Savvis Center to bits and jump on the 2005 Vertigo

There are few people in this world who can deliver The Look and deliver a show like Bono and U2. He held 19,000 people spellbound at the sold-out show and mixed the rock show with his usual imploring about Africa and the One Campaign to end poverty.

From the floor inside the ellipse, taking in U2 is like being hit by a multimedia and color-drenched tidal wave. The band started with City of Blinding Lights and immediately launched into Vertigo and Elevation. U2 reached back to its 25-year-old October album for Gloria, then amped the crowd up for the sing-a-long Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.

Bono's voice was in fine form and the band had great energy. His Italian opera delivery during Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own and Miss Sarajevo stopped everybody in their tracks. This was the 107th show of 110 since February, but you would never have known it. Clayton and The Edge often strolled along the large runway extending halfway onto the floor, and Bono wisely stayed away from some, but not all, of the higher notes.

U2 stakes its claim as the best band in the world simply because of Mullen, the best drummer in rock today. He doesn't fly all over the kit and try to smash everything in sight, he simply delivers punctuated power and keeps a band with often complex arrangements on track with Clayton's steady bass delivery.

Bono was the usual stage madman, stalking songs rather than singing them, but here's something that makes you love the man even more. Yes, Virginia, there is a monitor with the scrolled lyrics on the stage. Two of them, in fact. Bono rarely looked at them, but it's comforting to know even the rock star/world activist sometimes forgets the words.

The band's ability to move was never more evident than Where The Streets Have No Name, which caused the crowd to jack up its response into a deafening roar. Before playing One, Clayton casually leaned against his bass amps and watched Bono gleefully say the One Campaign will have 5 million members by the next election - "That's more than the NRA!"

While The Edge certainly is a technology-driven guitar player, layering his sounds with echoes and affects, he is a tiger when let loose. Bullet The Blue Sky featured blues leads and ripping power chords, and End Of The World was a ferocious six-string missile.

Bono pulled a young boy out of the crowd to sing "No more!" during Sunday Bloody Sunday. He sampled The Clash's Rock The Casaba, and he taunted a young woman during The End of The World by reaching out to her as if to invite her on the stage, then pulling back. He returned to her at the end of Mysterious Ways and hauled her up to the stage, slow-dancing with her during With Or Without You.

An acoustic Stuck In A Moment started the second encore, followed by U2's nod to the death of John Lennon 25 years ago, a well-paced Instant Karma. Mullen in particular was right on during the machine-gun drum breaks. During Yahweh, Bono invited a young man from the crowd to play piano, exhorting him to finish the song with sweeping sustained chords.

U2 finished with 40, Bono leaving first, then Clayton, then The Edge, then only Mullen left to muscle out the last minutes of the concert. "Don't forget about us," Bono said.

No chance.

We'll be looking for The Look again, Bono.