12/01/2010 Etihad Stadium – Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Return Of The Stingray Guitar, Beautiful Day / Here Comes The Sun (snippet), I Will Follow, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent, Mysterious Ways / My Sweet Lord (snippet), Elevation, Until The End Of The World / Anthem (snippet), I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Mercy, Bad, In A Little While, Miss Sarajevo, City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo / Highway To Hell (snippet) / Devil Inside (snippet), Funky Town (snippet) / , I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight / Relax (snippet) / Two Tribes (snippet), Sunday Bloody Sunday / Get Up Stand Up (snippet), Scarlet, Walk On / You’ll Never Walk Alone (snippet)
Encores: One, Amazing Grace (snippet) / , Where The Streets Have No Name / All You Need Is Love (snippet), Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me, With Or Without You, Moment of Surrender
Source: The U2 Setlist Archive here.
I last saw U2 seventeen years ago on their 1993 Zoomerang tour (the 12th November gig in Melbourne). In the interim, U2 have honed their setlist and onstage banter for stadiums, bolstered by material from All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) and later albums. Gone are the early-to-mid 1990s geopolitics references and hipster cyberpunk aesthetic: the band now concentrates on a stripped down, power trio behind Bono’s epic vocals. It mostly works because U2 are one of the few bands with the stamina and back catalogue of hits to play a two hour, stadium show.
Opener Jay-Z warmed the crowd up with hits like ’99 Problems’ and the anthematic ‘Empire State of Mind’. The big surprise was Jay-Z’s backing band: a drummer, percussionists and horn section that were closer to a 1970s jazz fusion outfit and that underpinned his rapping and stylistic poses with a sonic depth and virtuosity that would be powerful in an intimate, club setting like Montreaux.
U2 entered the stadium to the strains of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ and then launched into the new, warm-up instrumental ‘Return of the Stingray Guitar’. I had just heard No Line on the Horizon (2009) the day before the concert: ‘Magnificent’ translates well, ‘Get On Your Boots’ improves on the studio version, whilst there are other, superior tracks to ‘I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight’. A massive lighting rig and stroboscopic effects don’t cover up the material. Achtung Baby (1991) material like ‘Until The End of the World’ and ‘Mysterious Ways’ still holds up very well, whilst soundtrack filler like ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me’ could be dropped given the stronger songs in U2’s back catalogue. ‘I Will Follow’ rocks out, whilst ‘Elevation’, ‘Beautiful Day’, ‘Vertigo’ and ‘City of Blinding Lights’ almost seem written specifically for a stadium performance. There were surprises: the band didn’t screen the beauty pageant clips during ‘Miss Sarajevo’, for example, and the different permutations of the Claw rig and LED screens during the performance.
The audience was at its most ecstatic during early hits — ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ from War (1983) and ‘Bad’ from The Unforgettable Fire (1984), and anything from The Joshua Tree (1987), notably ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ and ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’. U2 also integrated their Christian religious beliefs and political activism into this material: Iran election protest footage during ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’; a prayer to Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi during ‘Scarlet’ supported by Amnesty International lanterns; and a brief sermon from Archbishop Desmond Tutu before ‘One’. It was at these moments, and during the quiet, terse reflections of ‘With Or Without You’ that U2 deftly turned a stadium concert into a rock ‘n’ roll communion of sentient beings.
Melbourne’s Age newspaper has a review here.