Last night two of pop music’s superpowers came together for a pulsating night at Docklands.
Just over 60,000 fans crammed into an expanded-capacity Etihad Stadium to witness U2 360, the Irish superstar band’s bold achievement in stadium rock.
But before Bono and co landed, the American hip-hop superstar Jay-Z was entrusted with opening the monster double-bill.
He provided U2 with a winning mix of pop-cultural prestige and commercial supremacy few acts could, and he undoubtedly widened the night’s demographic. His wife, singer-actress Beyonce, however, was not to be seen.
Jay-Z also delivered pop hits, none better than last year’s epic Empire State of Mind, which drew the night’s first big singalong.
Still, much of his set was a little jarring for this rock-loving crowd and last night was unequivocally about U2.
It’s not difficult to get caught up in the logistics of the U2 production - the ”claw” is 50 metres high and carries 590 tonnes of equipment. But the stage, while vast, feels uncluttered and gives the band access to the crowd on all sides.
Almost miraculously, U2 delivers a sense of intimacy.
The sight of the four mates from Dublin, who have endured for more than 30 years together, entering the packed stadium by walking through the crowd as David Bowie’s Space Oddity blasts out is genuinely thrilling. It’s a nod of gratitude to fans, an acknowledgment that the quartet and their followers have stuck tight for so long.
Yet Bono was the irrepressible star last night. He used the elongated catwalks to strut, shadow box and spider dance through early parts of the set.
The U2 classics - With or Without You, I Will Follow, Where the Streets Have No Name, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Beautiful Day and One - were delivered in elaborate fashion.
Recent tracks Get On Your Boots and Magnificent were helped in part by Bono namechecking in the intro St Kilda, Richmond and Fitzroy. The gesture to Melbourne was lapped up.
City of Blinding Lights and Vertigo were also given fresh energy.
Songs regularly segued into others in almost mash-up style. Bad borrowed from All I Want Is You. And even the rain held off despite dire forecasts.
As for the sound, it was excellent to fair depending on where you were in the stadium.
”We’ve been doing this a while,” Bono said. ”But we’re still figuring out so much about music … Keep coming to see us, we’re still pilgrims.”
He then spoke of a strong connection the band has with Melbourne and launched into I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.
The band also played two new, unreleased tracks.
Both were strident efforts demonstrating that these rock veterans retain their hunger.