Sunday, 65,000-plus U2 fans spilled into Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, faces aglow with anticipation, at last face to face with the gigantic stage setup tagged “The Claw.”
Perfectly assembled and poised to house the grandest stage spectacle to caravan the globe, “The Claw,” in person, did not disappoint. Among the bells and whistles of the Bono-envisioned stage: oversized ornaments that lit up the dark sky, a 360-degree ramp that extended into the audience and circled the inner stage and a brilliant LED video screen.
Such a platform might have overpowered a weaker band. But not U2. At 8:47 p.m., the mythical members of U2 slowly, confidently strutted on stage, one by one, until Bono finally walked to the middle of the round at 8:50 p.m., sporting a black leather jacket suited only for a rock star, black pants and his trademark Bono shades. The crowd exploded, almost in disbelief the day was finally here. Crying fans, beach ball-bouncing fans, fans who had road-tripped from Canada, fans who had jetted in from Europe, fans of every age — all united to experience the highest grossing tour of all time. It all happened one year after the originally scheduled concert date.
Three decades in, the men of U2 embraced the stage with the self-assurance of a cast of characters at the pinnacle of their sport. They stood energized and alive. They carried grace and style. Drummer Larry Mullen, guitarist The Edge and bass player Adam Clayton instantly created a wall of sound that nothing could conquer, working as one unified, mesmerizing whole. The Edge’s guitars were near-hypnotic: soaring, emoting, melodic. Carefully placed solos sang and seared through the cool air. Bono, of course, is the original rock ‘n’ roll frontman. He beckoned the crowd to join in and unite with U2’s swoons and sentiments.
At its finest moments — and there were countless — the concert brought back that thrilling, heartfelt post-punk of U2’s early days, whether it was the sweeping, inspiring “Elevation,” the yearning “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” the swirling, spiritual “One,” or the hair-raising “Vertigo.”
During the set, Bono devoted “Beautiful Day” to Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, victim of a shooting in January, and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. He sent out “Walk On” to Burmese opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi, and later in the song, Amnesty International volunteers circled the stage holding candles with the Amnesty symbol.
Though counter-intuitive, the massiveness of U2’s 360-degree stage successfully created an aura of intimacy, even in a giant football stadium. At times, it felt as if it was just the band and its music. After Sunday’s show, there is little uncertainty that U2 is truly able to bring people from every corner of the glove together for a moment of — in the words of Bono — “love and peace, peace and love.”