U2 massive concert in Raleigh N.C.

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“We’ve got old songs, we’ve got new songs, we’ve got songs we can barely play,” he cracked. “And we’ve got a spaceship!”

Yes, it was hard not to notice that. At a time when pretty much everything seems to be in contraction mode, U2 has rolled the dice with what has to be the most elaborately ginormous stage setup in rock history — a huge claw-shaped beast that looked like a vertigo-inducing theme-park ride.

It seemed impossible that any band, even one as outsized as U2, wouldn’t get swallowed up by such surroundings. But somehow, they pulled it off through sheer force of will. This business of being the biggest band on earth clearly matters a great deal to U2, and they’ve put this gargantuan spectacle on the road to achieve “intimacy on a grand scale.” There’s just no one better at enormity than U2.

Bono wasted no time hitting the heroic poses on the opener “Breathe,” a track from the current album “No Line on the Horizon.” While “No Line” is only so-so, its songs came across much better live — even “Get On Your Boots,” the actively annoying first single. Other recent-vintage songs to hit the mark included “Vertigo,” “Magnificent” and “City of Blinding Lights.”

As always, Edge provided letter-perfect guitar accompaniment. If Bono is U2’s preacher man, Edge is the one who built the sonic pulpit from which he holds forth.

Hammy theatrics that somehow work are a U2 specialty, such as the way Bono worked snippets of rock-era classics into U2 songs. A bit of “Amazing Grace” turned up during the encore version of “One.” And during “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” Bono pointed at the moon and sang the opening of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” (“When the night has come/And the land is Dark/And the moon is the only light we will see…”).

Sometimes, however, Bono should just leave well enough alone. Tossing his microphone to a guy in the crowd to let him sing a verse of “People Get Ready” might have seemed like a good idea; but it was an off-key disaster.

Still, that was one of the show’s miscues. For all the band’s pretensions, U2 is ultimately just so likable that it’s almost impossible not to be won over. When they went roaring into the encore version of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” that guitar riff pealing like a church bell, it was a perfect moment of blissful big-rock grandeur that you just don’t see much of anymore.

Raleigh Fans all agree this would be the last time they see U2 on the big stage. They all agree this was the biggest show of the year. Fans loved it, Muse was a solid up and coming band that U2 seemly has passed the torch to carry on big Rock and Roll