Atlanta - Just after “Beautiful Day,” four songs into a thunderous, nearly sold-out show at the Georgia Dome, Bono took off his sunglasses. Beads of sweat dotted his face – a vein stood out in his temple. “Thank you all,” he told the audience, “for helping us build this—madness.”
And then he gestured up. Above him, all around him was the 170-ton, four-pronged stage, looking like a metal claw from the Planet of Giant Robot Crabs.
On the other hand, the sea of standing-room souls with general admission tickets on the floor of the Dome, the select few in the Red Zones (who bid for tickets to get at stage front) and the rest of us, packed to the Dome’s rafters, holding up cell phones like Bic lighters, had a strangely intimate connection to the four performers in the middle. This was due to many things, among them the in-the-round stage design, which lifted speakers and other hardware out of the way, and gave Bono, drummer Larry Mullen Jr., bassist Adam Clayton, and guitarist the Edge walkways and bridges to bring them right into the middle of the crowd.
It was also due to that determination to make a connection that is the hallmark of a U2 concert. While the show – and its seven-story accordionated video screen — was eye-poppingly huge, the emotion behind the performance was all human scale.
U2 moved between the human and the gargantuan through 22 songs (including five encores), kicking off the show with “Breathe” and “Get on Your Boots,” from the new album “No Line on the Horizon.”
The crowd was attentive to the new songs, but arms began punching the air when Bono told them to use their “Southern church voices” and the Edge launched into “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” from 1987’s “Joshua Tree.” Bono brought the band’s volume down, and let the audience sing the first verse.
“We’ve got old songs, we’ve got new songs, we’ve got songs we can barely play,” said Bono after a delicate duo version of “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” with the Edge on acoustic guitar. “We’ve got a spaceship,” he added, referring to his futuristic stage. “But it’s not going anywhere without you.”
Liftoff was achieved with “Vertigo,” the Edge’s hammered, chiming strings abetted by the shouted “Hello! Hello!” from the audience. Then with a shift of mood, the disembodied heads of the Brothers U2 nodded from the screen, as sequencers chugged through their techno remix of “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight.”
The pacing of the concert made room for small moments and larger gestures. During “Sunday Bloody Sunday” the Hoberman video screen broadcast images of the protests in Iran. With “Walk On” the band invited a host of volunteers to step out on the circular catwalk surrounding the stage, each holding up a paper mask showing the face of jailed Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. It was a sweet and somewhat strange gesture.
Just before the first encore Bishop Desmond Tutu’s face looked out from the video screen and spoke to the audience, congratulating them for their help in buying drugs to treat AIDS and malaria in Africa. (U2 concerts have raised millions for those causes.
We have been getting interesting reviews from you the fans that have attended the show last night. We reviewed all of the comments and based on your feedback the show was considered to be graded as “B” and Muse ‘C”. The feeling we have been getting is that the new CD (yea Album) has not been much of a rally cry for new fans. Long time fans had to replay the CD a couple of times before the embrace of what was termed by the group as new direction. A departure from our expectation, a journey of growth to which one must take once or twice in their life time. Bono screamed out to the audience “Don’t forget about us” seem to say hey we all have to take a journey and sometimes its better go with a friend. U2 wants you to ride along.