Well the first review is in - While we await for Memphis Mullen’s review we have Jim’s review. Now Remember everyone has a point of view.
By Jim Harrington: One has to wonder whether U2 gets the irony of opening its shows with the tune “Even Better Than the Real Thing.”
For that’s really the issue that’s up for debate on their gigantic, record-setting 360 Tour, which finally touched down on Tuesday night — nearly a year later than originally scheduled — at Overstock.com Coliseum in Oakland.
Is watching U2 perform on giant video screens, on a mammoth stage that makes it hard to pay attention to the actual musicians, even better than the plain old concert experience?
I guess it depends on what one is looking for. The sheer magnitude of the production — by far, the largest ever in rock ‘n’ roll history — is breathtaking. The four-legged “Claw” stage, which each leg able to support 125 tons, is 157 feet tall and 200 feet wide. The in-the-round stage is designed so that every fan in the stadium — totaling some 69,000 in Oakland — can, at least in theory, see what’s happening onstage. Thus, the 360 name.
But the apparatus is also a huge distraction, one that even made the band seem quite unnecessary at times. If you weren’t in the first few rows, you might as well have been watching a DVD on the big screens. Sure, that’s true, to some degree, of most stadium shows — but never before to the extent witnessed on this 360 Tour.
Not that fans are arguing. This 2 ½-hour Oakland show — originally scheduled for last June, but postponed when Bono injured his back — was the 94th of a 110-date sold-out trek that already ranks as the top-grossing tour of all time.
There were a number of highlights on Tuesday night, just not anywhere near as many as found during the local stops on the band’s two previous tours, 2001’s Elevation and 2005-06’s “Vertigo.” Those previous treks played arenas, and the intimacy of the settings did more for the music than any “Claw” ever could.
U2, however, wouldn’t make us wait long for the night’s first highlight, following up the 1991 “Achtung Baby” track “Even Better Than the Real Thing” with a powerful version of “I Will Follow,” the early single from the 1980 debut “Boy” that still stands as the band’s best anthem.
Then the Irish quartet, which consists of vocalist Bono, guitarist the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen, Jr., would quickly let the momentum slip away as it delved into the new album for a lukewarm “Get on Your Boots” and a version of “Magnificent” that was anything but.
The band recovered nicely as it moved back to the juicier part of its songbook for the “Achtung” offerings “Mysterious Ways” and “Until the End of the World,” as well as the uplifting “Elevation,” from 2000’s great “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.”
Yet, the whole affair felt overly rehearsed and rote. That’s part of the deal with these big stage productions, which leave little wiggle room for veering off the set list or ad-libbing in any form. It still shouldn’t “feel” that way. But it mostly felt so choreographed, from the song selection (which closely mirrored other shows on this leg of the tour) to the stage banter.
There was, however, a handful of refreshing exceptions to that rule. The first came when band members discussed how they’d spent the previous night partying with Metallica and Green Day.
“We talked about the most important issues of the day — the best tequila available,” the Edge said of the meeting of rock greats. “I remember at least the first hour. The rest is kind of fuzzy.”
The second was an impromptu version of “Perfect Day,” the sensational song by Lou Reed, who was reportedly in the audience. And, most significantly, Bono did take the time to recognize that this crowd had to wait so long to finally be able to see this show.
“Thank you for your patience,” he said. “Some of you were two years younger when you bought those tickets.”
The delay didn’t affect the performance. The band sounded strong through much of the evening, continuing through such fan favorites as “Beautiful Day,” “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Bono was a powerful frontman — proving one more time that he’s the best in the business at playing up to the camera — and the Edge had the guitar effects humming as usual, while Clayton and Mullen, Jr. again formed one of rock’s most potent rhythm sections.
And that fact only made it harder to accept the “Claw.” The band sounded so good that I wanted to actually watch them, yet my attention was continually drawn up to the giant video screens and to the four-legged monster of a stage