Bono screams "Shake your big ass"

The Record & Herald News, September 24, 2009
By: Mike Kerwick

Sixteen minutes after the lights went dark, three songs into his set, Bono made his way to the front of the most colossal — and we’re guessing the most expensive — stage that Giants Stadium has ever seen.

“Try this,” he told the crowd.

He plucked the fourth song from Achtung Baby, an album U2 released 18 years ago. Eighteen years did little to numb the effect of this particular song. “Mysterious Ways” still connects, aging as comfortably as the band members who perform it. It took a polite-but-expectant crowd and turned it into a yes-we’re-on-board-now crowd during Wednesday night’s show at Giants Stadium.

The show kicked off at 8:59 p.m., with steady plumes of smoke spewing from the center of the giant space needle that was perched atop the roof of the stage. The smoke drifted sideways, floating toward Section 303.

By 9:02 p.m., it was U2’s turn to show that this elaborate stage was more than smoke and mirrors. Larry Mullen Jr. walked out first, waving to the crowd and taking a seat behind the drums. The Edge and Adam Clayton, the band’s two guitarists, followed Mullen’s lead.

Then came Bono, wearing his signature black jacket and inimitable pair of shades. The crowd came ready to scream.

U2 opened with three straight songs from No Line on the Horizon, an album that sold a bunch of copies but earned only mixed reviews from critics and fans. Bono kicked off the show with “Breathe,” then played “Magnificent” and “Get On Your Boots.”

Done with the obligatory new material, Bono launched into “Mysterious Ways.” Could he top that? He didn’t even need to sing the fifth song — “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Bono moved the microphone away from his lips and let the crowd handle this one, tapping his heart in appreciation while the crowd filled in on lead vocals.

There were other sweet moments. He paid homage to The Boss, referencing Bruce Springsteen’s 60th birthday and then playing a cover of “She’s the One.”

“Excuse us, Bruce,” Bono joked afterward.

No song from the first half of the set was as touching as “Stuck in a Moment.” For all the stage’s bells and whistles, this song took a more minimalist approach. A few spotlights, a few microphones, and touching music.

No song from the second half of the set was as touching as the band’s 30-second cover of “Amazing Grace.”

“The second half of the show featured some of the band’s heart-pounding anthems and ballads, including “One,” “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “With or Without You” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” At the end of “Sunday,” Bono told the crowd, “We send a message of love from New Jersey” and called for freedom of speech in Iran.

Was the gigantic stage — with its cream-colored claw and orange buttons, with its radio tower-esque spire that stretched higher than the cheap seats — really necessary? Maybe not. But the band tried to at least take advantage of the elaborate set. Bono sat on a rotating bridge during the start of “Beautiful Day.” Clayton and The Edge took turns circling the outer ring of the 360-degree stage.

Its biggest drawback: Stadium shows make even the best performers look like ants. The size of the stage made these rockers appear even smaller.

Muse opened for the Irishmen on Wednesday night, playing a 47-minute set as most of the crowd filtered into the stadium.

© The Record & Herald, 2009.