“Good night Clarence Clemons. Good night Miami.”
Those were the very last words that U2′s charismatic singer and ringleader Bono spoke from the interactive, soaring concert-in-the-round stage of its “360 Tour” last night at Miami’s SunLife Stadium. But their affection and presumed sincerity matched everything that preceded them during the previous two hours of hits, activism, peace, brotherhood and mutual singer/audience flirting.
That encore of “Moment of Surrender,” dedicated to late E Street Band stalwart and Singer Island resident Clemons, who passed away two weeks ago, was the sweet coda to an evening full of surprise video appearances (Astronaut Mark Kelly and others from the International Space Station; Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released last year from 15 years of house arrest), celebrity shout-outs (“LeBron James is in the house!”) and a happily hectic cavalcade of spectacle and sound.
“Some of you were two years younger when you bought these tickets,” Bono winked, referring to the fact that this show had been rescheduled from last July with tickets that, indeed, originally went on sale in late 2010. “I think I’m moving OK.”
“Moving” is, indeed, the right word – Taking the stage to the backdrop of disembodied voice of David Bowie’s “Major Tom,” the band kicked things off with the pulsating rhythm of “Even Better Than The Real Thing” and never stopped flowing. There was a not-so-subtle space theme, from the introductory Bowie and the ending video of the astronauts, set to Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” And then there was that stage, which last night qualified as a fifth member of the band. Its sloping, changing configuration allowed most of the seats to, at some point, face the band, and provided a high-tech, space age turn on some new songs (“North Star,” from the new “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”) and a lot of old ones.
The line-up included “The Fly,” the sexy exotic flair of “Mysterious Ways,” “Until The End of The World,” the simple, spangly punch of “I Will Follow,” the psychedelic kiss of “Get On Your Boots” and the big singalongs: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” which Bono implored the crowd to “take..to church,” the staccato delights of “Elevation” and the always powerful “Pride (In The Name of Love).” At the risk of sounding overly sentimental and cheesy, there’s something awe-inspiring about hearing thousands of voices singing in the words “In the name of love” at the top of their lungs, in unison. It’s a sound that seems like it could change the world.
Before U2, the stage was owned by Florence and the Machine, which Bono later described as “a carnival of a band.” That’s more than accurate – led by the luminously flame-haired Florence Welch, they provided a wall of sound that was ethereal but also fun. I loved that Welch smiled so much, even as her gorgeous yellow flowy gown waved in the air. She’s like a combination of Kate Bush, Sinead O’Connor, Bjork and a rainbow. And her voice is goose-bumpy.
Besides the Clemons tribute, the emotional heights of the show were hit with “Beautiful Day” and “Walk On.” The former was introduced by astronaut Kelly as a moving message to wife Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, still recovering from being shot in January. It included a bittersweet line from “Major Tom” – “Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows.” Not a dry eye in the house.
The latter, introduced by the luminous and self-confessed U2 fan Suu Kyi, was a giant “Thank you” to the band, their fans and their combined efforts for human rights, including work with their “One” project and Amnesty International. It says a lot about a band that, two hours down, there were still a lot of songs left in the holster that you’d want to hear. Maybe next time. Hopefully it won’t take another two years.