U2 @ Millennium Stadium, Cardiff UK – 22 August 2009

Posted by Bianca on Saturday Aug 22, 2009 Under Rock

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Inside Cardiff’s humungous Millennium Stadium you could be forgiven for thinking you’d entered the set of the new War Of The Worlds movie, albeit with 70,000 extras. An immense other-worldly structure rises up several storeys high in the centre of the stadium, with insect-like legs and a blinding array of flashing multi-coloured lights. Look down towards its feet and four relatively tiny creatures attempt to draw your attention back towards earth level. These creatures go by the names Adam, Larry, Bono and The Edge.

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Being the biggest band in the world means you’re regularly playing to tens of thousands of people every night, and those people expect something special. And after touring for over 30 years with the same line-up U2 must dream up new and ever more impressive ways to raise the bar when it comes to a stadium rock show. And this year’s 360° Tour succeeds in being perhaps the most spectacular stage show I’ve yet to witness. But what of the band themselves…?

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I’ve seen U2 several times now and know that when they’re on form there are almost no other artists to compare to them in a live environment, especially when it comes to holding an audience captive in such a massive stadium. Having said that, I have to admit that recent albums have left me disappointed compared with life-changing releases such as The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree. So, with another less-than-exciting album release in the shape of their 12th studio album, No Line On the Horizon, I was curious to see if the boys from Dublin can still deliver.

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As if to test the theory for me, U2 kick off a 2 hour+ set with three songs from their latest album. Admittedly the songs do come to life much more in a live setting, with Get On Your Boots sounding particularly bombastic. But, for me at least, that emotional pull of much of their older material is still lacking.

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Beautiful Day is stadium rock taken to its absolute limit and the crowd lap it up. Indeed, it has to be said that the energy in this crowd is something to behold. Even those way up in the highest seats are on their feet and singing every word with passion. Mysterious Ways and I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For prove that their classics have stood the test of time and a beautiful rendition of Stay (Faraway, So Close!) allows Bono to show off that incredible voice before Unknown Caller brings us back up to date.

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The Unforgettable Fire remains a timeless classic and sounds as great as it ever did, while City Of Blinding Lights is a great indication that, when they want to, U2 can still write fantastic tunes which justify their place in the current rock arena. But the best is still yet to come…

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A rousing Sunday Bloody Sunday ends with a snippet from Elvis Costello‘s Oliver’s Army before the ever-powerful Pride (In The Name Of Love) leads us into MLK which Bono dedicates to a friend who is “fighting for her life and losing”. Walk On is dedicated to Burma’s imprisoned opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. During the song, 60 or 70 fans wearing Aung San Suu Kyi masks fill the walkway around the stage in a show of solidarity. It’s a move which lacks the impact intended, with much of the audience looking a little confused as to the significance.

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Things improve magnificently for the rest of the show as the uplifting opening chords of Where The Streets Have No Name greet one of the biggest cheers this stadium will ever witness. Bono has the audience just where he wants them now and the song sounds incredible. One may sound a little tired these days but it’s obviously very much a favourite with the crowd, but it’s my personal favourite U2 tune, Bad, which is the real highlight of the evening. This song truly encapsulates everything great about U2 and unites 70,000 fans who sing along for all they’re worth. As I glance around the faces in the crowd I can’t help but smile as so many people seem completely caught up in the moment. Amazing!

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Bono returns for the encore wearing a jacket shooting out laser beams as the band launch into Ultraviolet (Light My Way) and then the epic With Or Without You. After that, new song Moment Of Surrender is a total anti-climax. It’s such a limp ending that I’m shocked they don’t follow it up with one last tune but, as tens of thousands of people fill the streets of Cardiff on a Saturday night, nobody else seems to be complaining.

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Set List:

1. Breathe
2. No Line On The Horizon
3. Get On Your Boots
4. Magnificent
5. Land Of Our Fathers (snippet) / Beautiful Day / Blackbird (snippet)
6. Mysterious Ways
7. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For / Stand By Me (snippet)
8. Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
9. Unknown Caller
10. The Unforgettable Fire
11. City Of Blinding Lights
12. Vertigo
13. Crazy Tonight (remix)
14. Sunday Bloody Sunday / Oliver’s Army (snippet)
15. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
16. MLK
17. Walk On
18. Where The Streets Have No Name

19. One
20. Bad / “40” (snippet)

ENCORE:
21. Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
22. With Or Without You
23. Moment Of Surrender

Review & Photos – Steve Gerrard

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