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U2's setlist is a little spotty, but they still deliver at Lincoln Financial Field

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U2’s long-awaited return to Philadelphia took a little longer than expected, but it didn’t stop a crowd of almost 75,000 watch the supergroup perform at Lincoln Financial Field Thursday night.U2’s long-awaited return to Philadelphia took a little longer than expected, but it didn’t stop a crowd of almost 75,000 watch the supergroup perform at Lincoln Financial Field Thursday night. Photo: Aileen Bannon
 
Personally, I didn’t think I was going to see U2 again after the ‘Vertigo Tour’  in 2005. After seeing them previously three times, their last show gave me a nice lasting impression: Their greatest hits mixed with some new album tunes, blinding lights (get it? LOL), and Bono spewing about our great city and how it’s the birthplace of our country, firing off nods to historic places and giving the Sixers shoutouts (they were in the finals during one of those visits).

A back injury to the band’s front man sidetracked this show, which was supposed to have been last summer. The fact was not lost upon the singer, who gave his thanks to the crowd for holding on to their tickets, and acknowledged that some people were in fact several years younger when they first purchased these tickets.

When a ticket became available for Thursday’s show, my ears were still ringing from Soundgarden’s rocking set from the night before, but I figured the show would be solid anyways, so I went for it. As luck would have it, Bono’s back is now healed. This time around, the landmarks shifted to different places of transportation, and Bono now gave props to the Eagles and Phillies.

The fact is not lost upon anyone that U2 is still one of the biggest bands in the world. And when you saw The Edge photo: Aileen Bannonthe monstrosity of the spaceship-themed stage that rotated 360 degrees (after all, it IS called the '360 Tour') with rotating bridges that rivaled some of The Rolling Stones’ setups for their world tours, I wondered if it's possible that the band could be approaching Mick and Keith's iconic status.

Take it easy. I said ‘approaching,’ but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Think about it. By the time the Stones’ 'Voodoo Lounge Tour' kicked off in 1994, the Stones had 30 plus years under their belt. Diddo for U2, who released their first album in 1980 and have been together even longer than that. Longevity speaks volumes in the music business. For U2 to even undertake a show like the one they performed Thursday night could not be done by the average modern rock band today. Very few bands can sell out a 60,000 plus sized arena in a matter of minutes, and the hoopla surrounding the show was not dissimilar to that of the Stones concert.

But enough about that. Now on to the show.

Three of the set’s four opening songs Thursday night,  ‘Even Better Than the Real Thing,’Mysterious Ways,’ and ‘Until the End of the World’  were cuts from Achtung Baby, the album which gave the band a new identity and even further increased their popularity as they faced an uncertain future in the years prior to its release (hard to believe, right?!). ‘I Will Follow,’ the band’s first hit from their debut album Boy still rocks, and was one of just seven songs from the band’s catalog that were pre-Achtung.

The clear highlights of the set were ‘Beautiful Day,’ which featured a recorded message from NASA Commander Mark Kelly, ‘Vertigo,‘City of Blinding Lights,’Sunday Bloody Sunday’ from 1983’s WAR, and ‘Hold Me Thrill me, Kiss Me, Kill Me,’ which Bono resurrected his ‘Fly’ persona and swung from his microphone around the stage.

Check out Aileen Bannon's exclusive LENS Gallery of the event

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There were however, several uneven moments during the show. The mix of ‘I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight’ and POP’s ‘Discotheque’ (as well as a cover of Talking Heads’ ‘Life During Wartime’ and ‘Psycho Killer’) missed the boat more than it hit. All the strobe lights in the world couldn’t hide the fact that ‘Get On Your Boots’ is one of the worst songs the band has ever recorded, and such classics as ‘New Year’s Day’ (which I still haven’t heard live despite seeing U2 five times), ‘Gloria,’ or ‘Angel of Harlem’  would have been much preferred over ‘Boots,’ ‘Elevation’ and ‘Walk On.’   Reportedly, there have been disagreements amongst the band regarding the setlist on some occasions during this tour.Bono photo: Aileen Bannon

At times the setlist prevented the crowd from getting into a steady groove. Just as the energy would start to increase, the band reverted back to songs like the penultimate set closer ‘Moment Of Surrender’ that had some people leaving for the exits. The band closed by singing happy birthday to Nelson Mandela, one of several names of the political realm that Bono dropped throughout the show............

U2 has been doing this for so long they could pull this off in their sleep. But despite the band’s other interests (mainly Bono and his political shtick) none of them ever phone in an effort.  At 51, Bono (for better or worse) still delivers his sermon, but his voice sounds better than ever, The Edge  and Adam Clayton (the true playboy' of the band) were reliable as always, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. seemed to be rocking out even more than usual. The LED monitors that wrapped around the stage featured exceptional film quality, and almost led you to believe the band was shooting the show for a live DVD. Moreover, it certainly helped to give the foursome a larger-than-life stage presence.

Maybe it was a generation thing or maybe even a price issue, but there didn’t seem to be many fans there under the age of 30. Not my favorite tour from the band, but when you combine the stage and the overall reliability of the group’s performance, there probably isn’t a better bang for your buck out there from a musical standpoint than a U2 concert.

With the exception of the Stones, of course.

But they’re getting there.

SETLIST:

Even Better Than The Real Thing
I Will Follow
Mysterious Ways
Until the End of the World
Get On Your Boots
Magnificent
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Stay
Beautiful Day - Space Oddity
Elevation
Pride (In the name of love)
Miss Sarajevo
Zooropa
City of Blinding Lights
Vertigo - It's Only Rock and Roll
I'll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (remix) - Discotheque - Life During Wartime -Psycho Killer
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Scarlet
Walk On

ENCORE:

One
Hallelujah - Where the Streets Have No Name
Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me
With or Without You
Moment of Surrender
Happy Birthday

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

 

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Excellent photos by Aileen Bannon