Do we really need stadium concerts anymore? Probably not, but if we have to endure the outdated tradition of bloated extravaganzas housed in huge outdoor arenas generally reserved for football or baseball games, then U2 is certainly the band for the job.
The grandiose Irish rockers played for over 40,000 people at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday night, and they did their best to make the experience worthy of such expansiveness. Unfortunately, the band’s recent material (beginning with 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind), which made up the bulk of the setlist, just doesn’t have the power and universal appeal needed for a larger-than-life stadium experience. The U2 show was a perfectly solid rock concert, with a huge claw-shaped set that commanded the attention of tens of thousands, but musically, it only reached that mass transcendence a handful of times.
- Oct. 23, Sam Boyd Stadium
Classics “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “Until the End of the World” filled the stadium the best, and “One” and “With or Without You” got audience members waving cell phones and swaying arm in arm. It was exciting to hear the swagger of “Mysterious Ways” and the call-to-arms of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” among the sea of people, but those highlights were surrounded by lots of dull renditions of songs from underwhelming new album No Line on the Horizon, and other latter-day material. “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” got a nice simple acoustic makeover, with singer Bono and guitarist The Edge trading lead vocals, but it was the wrong fit for the venue. Likewise, it was refreshing to hear lesser-known vintage album tracks “The Unforgettable Fire” and “Ultra Violet (Light My Way),” but they did little to rouse the audience.
And, of course, Bono could never resist a chance for cheesy social commentary, so there was a video of Desmond Tutu leading into “One,” and “Walk On” featured an onstage phalanx of Amnesty International volunteers with masks depicting Burmese dissident Ang San Suu Kyi. “My name is Wayne Newton,” Bono joked during the band introductions. “I’m sure happy you’re still coming to see us.” We are, but it’s losing a bit of its charm.