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Live review: U2's 360 Tour at the Rose Bowl

U2_ROSE_BOWL_REVIEW

"Enough of the folk mass!" declared Bono during U2's historic Rose Bowl performance Sunday, leading his band and the nearly 100,000 fans in the stadium out of a singalong and into a dance party. The 49-year-old singer/activist/life of the party has been making such quick metaphorical turns for much of his life, fronting a band known for transcendence but hardly immune to sensual pleasure.

Usually, Bono and his band mates travel from prayers to come-ons on the force of charisma and a sound that's ascendant and sleekly funky, structured around the Edge's stretchy guitar parts and Bono's dirty-faced choirboy cries. But for this tour, U2 has adopted another mode of transport: the four-legged circular stage rig known as the Claw, or the Space Station. This contraption is an extravagance with a big carbon footprint and an even bigger price tag. But in Pasadena, it proved worth every Euro, allowing this most ambitious rock band to genuinely reconfigure live pop performance.

Plenty of artists have played in the round, built multi-tiered sets and spent time roaming through the crowd on ramps or trapezes. But the Space Station (Bono's preferred term these days) changes the architecture of the live concert. It not only puts the stadium audience closer to the band, it cuts holes in the fourth wall between star and fan, creating a feeling of immersion and communal connection that's startling in such a huge venue, and that translated differently in person than it could have on YouTube, where the concert was streamed live.

Getprev-16 Ringed by a ramp that the band members usually reached via moving bridges, enclosing a good chunk of the crowd within a welcome pen, the Space Station truly conjoined U2 and its audience. The Rose Bowl's relatively low walls enhanced the illusion that mere footsteps (and sometimes less than that) stood between the men unstack and their elated devotees. When Bono crouched at the ramp's edge or the Edge strode across it, churning out a riff, they seemed as touchable as superstars could be.

The Space Station's fragmented and shifting ground dismantled the conventions of the rock concert. "I was born to lift you up," Bono sang in "Magnificent," one of the many songs performed from the band's latest album, "No Line on the Horizon." But at times this music seemed to do the opposite -- it pushed the crowd under a wave of echo and distortion, or formed a passageway between the fans and the band.

Those joyfully shouted group choruses, to older songs like "One" and "With or Without You" but also to newer ones like "Magnificent" and "Unknown Caller" (the latter aided by lyrics splayed across the Space Station's screen), offered the clearest route to union. But it also happened when the Edge and billowing guitar phrases bathed the space in harmonics during "Until the End of the World," or when the rhythm section of Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. (the latter playing a strapped-on conga) moved every body in the house with a Latin-cum-rave take on "I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight."

U2's time-honored approach to spiritual enlightenment worked its magic too, when Bono prefaced the old favorite "Where the Streets Have No Name" with some verses of "Amazing Grace," or when he interjected phrases from crowd-pleasing oldies like "Stand by Me," or simply shouted "Soul! Soul! Soul!" (His funniest interjection, though, was when he compared himself to Dennis Hopper and then did a bit of that actor's heavy breathing from the film "Blue Velvet.")

But after three decades as an important band, U2 is long past simple uplift. Its music is as much about emotional entanglement (as in "Ultraviolet" on Sunday) and disorientation ("Vertigo"). Ultimately, it is a meditation on space: the majestic natural landscapes that the Edge's guitar playing often describes; the crowded dance floors or train platforms Clayton and Mullen's rhythms evoke; the inches between a whispering mouth and a lover's ear, or the infinite journey of a prayer hurled into the air.

The Space Station allows U2 to make those musical and lyrical preoccupations physical in a new way. At the Rose Bowl, it created a new experience even for the most jaded concertgoer. U2 concerts have often included moments in which raised voices build goodwill, or shaking hips stimulate joy. But for the first time, perhaps, this band's noise resulted in a kind of silence and stillness -- not a literal one, but the rapture that comes when nearly 100,000 people relax together, as if held within a gentle, open hand.

"God will put a wind at our back and a rising road ahead, if we work together as one," said Archbishop Desmond Tutu in an on-screen message late in the concert. That vision of nations and individuals opening up to one another is at the core of U2's mission. This extravagant tour gave the band another way to enact it and made for a whole new concert experience in the process.

Opening the show, the Black Eyed Peas went for something more tried and true, but also powerful: a party vibe celebrating the home team. Performing its many hits in an exuberant set, the Peas radiated Southern California pride. Tabu draped himself in Mexican and American flags; will.i.am name-checked neighborhoods and towns from Hollywood to East L.A. to La Crescenta.

The set's spirited climax came when Fergie took Axl Rose's part in a rough and true-blooded cover of  the Guns N' Roses classic "Sweet Child o' Mine," with Slash himself on guitar. If U2 aimed for universals, the Black Eyed Peas reminded us that particulars have their uses too. Especially when those particulars are as diverse as the elements that make up the Southland.

-- Ann Powers

RELATED:

U2_ROSE_BOWL_BONO PHOTOS: U2's 360 Tour: Live at the Rose Bowl

Amid the rattle and hum before U2's Rose Bowl show

The masses descend upon Pasadena for U2's Rose Bowl gig

Making the U2 set so big that it's invisible

INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: U2 360 tour: Stadium in the round

Photos: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.

 
Comments () | Archives (56)

Is this a concert review or a GMAT essay, just trying to squeeze as many elaborate words as possible? So many words and so few actual thoughts... review not worth of LA Times. The concert was NOT good, there was no connection between the band and the audience which was plain bored. Very sad

Beyond historic concert! U2 delivered more than the concert at Rose Bowl, they connected with the world. A great humanitarian and peace movement by U2 as they performed Walk On with volunteers walking up the stage holding paper mask of Aung Sansujee face image.
I don't think there ever be any concerts as great as U2 at Rose Bowl. EVER. To have been there was worth every effort. 96,000 seats, one was mine! It was a concert of a life time.

I was there and it was the best, nothing can top that!!!!

It was an amazing event. Look at all the people in this pic I took: http://twitpic.com/n03t3

This was truly a wonderful concert. The stage was constructed in a way to really bring U2 as close as possible to Rose Bowl fans. There was one part when two giant disco balls were illuminated with strobing lights that created a great dance atmosphere, and another part I enjoyed was when Will I Am tried to have the crowd's cell phones turn into a "wave" with the lights off. It didn't create a wave but instead turned the Rose Bowl into a galaxy or space mountain, I'm not sure. It brought the audience together nonetheless. As far as concerts go, a triumph!

Dennis is correct.

The show was bad, by far the worst U2 show I have seen (having been to every tour since Zoo TV). Bono was just going through the motions, and there was no connection to the audience like prior tours. Bono's vocals were off; as if he was trying to reinvent EVERY song; including some off of "No Line on the Horizon."

Wow. Merci so much, Dennis! You just made this broke chick in West L.A. feel a whole lot better this manana~ I wish I could say that I didn't attend last night's show due to Bono palling around with ole' Bushy whilst he was in 'the House,' but alas, it was due to this bloody economy... Bono, u spoke lately on how the U.S. just doesn't look or feel like it once did during the last election. Hmmm. Perhaps if you and folks my older brother didn't vote for him, WE would look a whole lot better, and I would have been able to see my 1st U2 gig-

peace,
clk~

(Oh, and I know u can't VOTE here, Paul, yet somehow, u more than that-)

Dennis is 100 % correct.
I stopped being a fan after the ZooTV tour.

Very boring live fan.

Bono has a hard time connecting with the audience. Very self indulgent on the stage. Always looking for a gimmick instead of relying on the music.

The live music itself is very drawn out and flat, every song sounding the same.

U2 is better suited for a more intimate venue. The venue was just too big for them. With the exception of Bono walking around posing or doing his drunken walk, the band just stands there or has their back turned to the audience(even in the round). Very amateurish vibe.

U2 fans will love the concert now matter what, which is expected.

Probably hard for the fans to admit that they left the concert a little disappointed.

Wow. Merci so much, Dennis! You just made this broke chick in West L.A. feel a whole lot better this manana~ I wish I could say that I didn't attend last night's show due to Bono palling around with ole' Bushy whilst he was in 'the House,' but alas, it was due to this bloody economy... Bono , u spoke lately on how the U.S. just doesn't look or feel like it once did during the last election. Hmmm. Perhaps if you and folks like my older brother didn't vote for him, WE would look a whole lot better today, and I would have been able to see my 1st U2 gig-

peace,
clk~

(Oh, and I know u can't VOTE here, Bono , yet somehow, u did way more than that-)

I witnessed this gig from my living room watching my laptop and listening on headphones in the middle of the night (UK time) and I have to say that the band's performance was flawless (well apart from one mis timing by Bono). It felt like I was there, such was the strength of the connection, and began to wonder if this event will open up huge opportunities for webcasting and pay for view. I am probably gone beyond the stage of lining up all day for live concerts, being manhandled by over zealous security people and then having drunken fans fall over themselves on the way to the can whilst a pivotal moment of the set list is in full swing. I also enjoyed rolling into bed a few seconds after the show rather than the dreaded trip home on either public transport or busy roads. What was amazing was that viewers on the website could share the experience, broadband internet connection accepted, for free. Pro Bono indeed, although how the impoverished kids in the African plains got on is debatable! Would I have paid for it beforehand? Probably not. Would I pay for it now, having had the experience, definetly yes. The sound and picture resolution was mighty impressive and the site never stalled. Am I biased? Well I am a lifelong fan of the band but see my blog posts from the last year and you will not witness a sharper critic of the band. What impressed me most was that they made a seemingly plain set of new songs sound richer in the live setting. A flawless delivery that will probably now help sell their poor selling album, which perhaps set the agenda for the redirected PR machine following poor performances in the charts.

Spiritual enlightenment? Is that a joke? Come on, they're rock stars. I was at the concert last night, too, and had a great time. Poor sound quality though. I saw the rebroadcast on youtube. I prefer the energy of a live performance, but if you're more interested in the musicianship and lyrics, youtube was a much better option. Show had a good mix of songs. I thought the new songs were much better live than on the CD.

Staging was very cool, but "breaking down the 4th wall?" I don't think so. I was on the floor, but not in the "circle." From where I was standing, you still had to watch the video monitors if you actually wanted to see the band. Basic stadium show.

Another solid U2 show, no doubt. They're true professionals, but enough with "transcendence" or "meditation on space" or, my favorite "the infinite journey of a prayer hurled into the air." It was a rock concert.

I think the author would better serve the public by being a critic and not a fan.

i can see how tying bono to bush could kill a lot of enthusiasm for the show. i much prefer the connection to be the rip off to the ticket schemers selling fake tickets. anything for the god o mighty dollar. i was dazzeled by the show. even on my little 20" mac i was blown away by the spectacle. i also would have visions of other uses of this very powerful medium of the "claw". but i also expected shakira to come up out the middle stage during "she moves in mysterious ways".

I feel sorry for Dennis and Ryan. The show was pretty spectacular. I don't know where their seats were but I was nowhere near close and I felt if Bono (and Slash during BEP) were right in front of me and playing for me. What a show!

I was at the show as well and I thought the music was great. Things got a little scary near my seating area as there was a huge crowd of people basically stuck in one of the tunnels - things could have easily turned disastrous - but the Pasadena police got things under control. I don't know about stadium venues though - I think they're becoming things of the past. As one person stated there seems to be a loss if intimacy between the performer and the audience.

I am a huge U2 fan, and was at the show last night (6th time seeing the band live) and I have to admit that I left the show last night a little disappointed. It defiantly was not their best... Bono seemed very tired, and the first couple of songs his vocals seemed to be way off and in my opinion was relying on Edge a little to often for vocals (which is ok- I LOVE EDGE!). It also seemed as if Bono was more interested in the fact that they were live streaming on Youtube, like he was trying harder to connect with that audience rather than the "real" audience. Bono is also known for pulling a girl on stage for Mysterious Ways- he didn't do that... I am sure u2 fans (that attend shows regularly) noticed that was a missing part of their show. Don't get me wrong though, it wasn't entirely bad, and seeing Pride, and Unforgettable Fire live is and was a real treat (not played live often). Streets, With or Without You, and In a Little While defiantly made the show worth while for me! I'll be going to see them again next June- one not so great show is not a deal breaker for me!

Oh yeah, one last note- Rose bowl in not a great place to see a live show- WAY too many people, and the parking situation is disastrous! The Shuttle system was even worse- one hour and 6 minutes exactly was the amount of time I spent waiting in line to ride the shuttle back to Parsons (then there were more lines to get out of parking structure)- in my mind this venue does not work well at all for large events!

Fergie brought it home last night!! The Black Eyed Peas were amazing and Fergie just proved again that she can tackle any genre!

U2 was great also, but I just expect that from them. Have seen them before. They delivered.

Went with a group of ravenous U2 fans who tried to hide their disapointment by blindly declaring it a great show. I heard Beautiful Day approximately 146 times from 2pm on.

Way too much new material that quite simply bites. Unforgettable Fire was the best song of the night.

Typical self indulgent Bono complete with shout outs to AIDS in Africa and global injustice in Burma all the while presented by Blackberry.

The ultimate irony is I paid for that experience. Note to self-You suck.

I almost feel that every time Ann Powers writes an article for the L.A. Times, she needs to post her location: Tuscaloosa Alabama, or Los Angeles, California before I even bother reading it.

Especially after the Mitch Albom incident in Detroit, (http://davisethics.psu.edu/case6.html )

Let's face it: Ann Powers is not "of L.A. (or SoCal)" anymore -- she's "of Tuscaloosa, AL" so when she writes lines like: "Especially when those particulars are as diverse as the elements that make up the Southland", from my perspective, she's trying to adopt the voice of an insider, or someone who actually lives here in real-time.

I would have preferred one of the local Times music critics who live here (e.g. August Brown ) to cover such a large music event. He would be better equipped to put his finger on the cultural zeitgeist instead of resorting to cliched retreads about the "diverse as the elements that make up the Southland" filler.

I was there last night and the show and crowd was great! BEP were surprisingly better than expected. I sat to the right of the mothership in Section 24, row 20. U2's best that I've seen in a venue of that size since the Zoo TV show at Dodger Stadium, Halloween Night in 92. It was cool to see so many fans from all over flock to such a historic and beautiful venue and grounds. Once in a lifetime event no doubt!

For all those saying the band didn't connect with the audience, the music was the connection for my brother and I. Will never forget 96,000 people singing the words to Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For or One!

I don't know about this article but as a fan that was in attendance last night, I gotta say that this show is one of the best that I've seen thus far and I've seen them about 10 times already. First off, the pre-show festivities were awesome. Everyone that was tailgating in front of the Picnic at the Park area looked like they were having fun and it felt good to be part of it. They could have used more restrooms out there... the lines where awful. The main gate to the venue needed more organization... BIG TIME! Even though it moved faster then expected it could have been much better.

Now to the show itself... Black Eye's are the least of my favorite acts out there but I thought they did a decent job considering who they were opening for. The only highlight I have is of Slash coming in and Playing "Sweet child of mine".

The stage set up is out of this world. Don't know if anyone can top this sucker, it is HUGE! Awesome! U2's set list was pretty good and I'm glad I got to hear "Unknown Caller" after they had dropped it from their set list for about a month. What I was looking forward to was the videos that fans have been making for this segment of the show. Oh well, it'll maybe pop up next year sometime. I hear some people saying that the sounds was awful. I Thought it was pretty good considering that its an outside show and they did a good job. Performance wise, its the best to date. One that I've been looking forward even more so after they announced that it was going to be taped for a future DVD release. All in all, I'll give this one a 9/10. Good job!

Now to the ugly stuff... venue security. I've read about things not going well in the GA lines etc. and to be quite honest, its disappointing. The Rose Bowl should have been better prepared. Having the GA line held by a tiny yellow tape is comical. C'mon, they dropped the ball in that department. My friend said she had a good experience but others did not. I'm sorry but you don't take little kids into the inner circle without expecting people to be pushing and shoving. Not to mention that they are kids... they are going to get tired and its an adult atmosphere. I'm really sorry for those that had a bad experience with their children. I'm a parent and I would have been livid had this happened to my child but that is why I made preparations well in advance to get a sitter.

In all, I'm glad I was part of this show. Good times with friends & your loved one! :)

First off, not much of a review by the LA Times writer. Was this person at any of U2 other shows on this tour did they not see or hear any of the Technical issues? If so why did they not right about them?
I have been to many, many U2 shows since 1983 and the Us Festival.
This was not one of their better shows. It was dry and robotic.
Both Chicago and Las Vegas on this tour were much better shows. The show I saw in Chicago was night #2 there and because of it being night #2 they had worked all the bugs out during the 1st night and I think that's why they had a really great show, spot on.
They also had a great show and were much more enjoyable in Las Vegas, playful and genuinely having fun. No technical issues what so ever helped make for a more relaxed show.
At the Rose Bowl lots of technical issues....feedback, Bono's mic not working were a couple of the most glaring...I think that's why some people posted Bono missed a cue, but it was because his mic was not working. He was on the outside ring and a stage hand came over and handed him a new mic which then hiccuped (as the mixer tried to switch to the new mic). So as Bono was starting the song you could not here him sing, even though he was.
Maybe U2 choked? Trying to hard because of the Web-cast and DVD? That seems really odd though.
I myself think that they do not do themselves any favors with 3 separate sets (Claws)....therefore 3 sets of incredibly complex audio/video headaches.
So once the show U2 wanted to have be one of their best on this tour started to crumble the band were really true professionals and played there way through it finishing the show very strong. Really hoping they play some indoor shows on the next wave....

U2 has jumped the shark for sure! No conncection, the boys all seemed like they'd rather be somewhere else, so go there already and stop charging $$$$ for a boring so-so concert with that riduculous stage. Hey Bono, what's wrong with performing as a band on a regular ole stage and letting your music and voices be the attraction?? I'll tell what's wrong..why you didn't do this tour like that, because your voices and music aren't strong enough anymore and you all feel you need a circus to make people feel $250 is worth seeing such a sideshow and a sideshow it is. I will never ever pay to see you boys again. You've gotten enough of my money and it was worth it, but not this tour with the claw/space station, flat affect of all 4 of you. You were phoning it in and I wish it was literally, because I could have saved $$$ from 3 concerts this tour. I should have stopped after the 1st, but wanted to give you "boys" the benefit of the doubt. Sheesh

It was a big show. But a boring show. Not a rock concert. It definitely dragged in parts. It seemed as though Bono was in slow motion. Singing the songs a little bit differently to muster some interest in them. I don't blame him for that. I kept looking at my watch wondering when I should bail. I never felt any "Transcendence." Ann Powers is a little too melodramatic. She and Bono would be great together. And Carli bringing up President Bush. Wow, just can't seem to let go? How about you start looking at who is in charge now? As The Who said, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." And as Bono once said in refernce to going to President Bush with his hand out, "You can't get in the door banging on your drum." Bono was mature enough to put politics aside when asking for relief help in Africa. Maybe you should follow Bono and you brother's example.

I was at the show (and was one of the "lucky ones" in the circle until I had to get out--- but don't get me started on that!!! Never again will I get there 10 hours before showtime. Not worth it! very rude and entitled drunk people in there!!!) So, I watched from about 50 yards back from the outer ring.
Anyway, I thought Bono's vocals were great especially during Amazing Grace (he used to sing that quite a bit on the older tours--my first show was at Long Beach Arena in 1984)
But I have to say I was a bit disappointed and it makes me sad to say that because they are my favorite band. I thought Bono played to the cameras and not the audience--it felt very rehearsed and distant. Don't get me wrong there were some great moments ( Go Crazy Remix--- Wow!) and the music was tight especially the bass driven songs from the new album. And it was great to her The Unforgettable Fire and MLK but that doesn't make up for the lack of intimacy. I used to say that no matter where you sat- big venue or arena- you felt connected. Don't feel that way anymore. Maybe U2 is bored with their own tour??? You know what would really be great?? If on their next tour they didn't play basically the same songs night after night--they have almost 30 years of material to choose from. I don't know -- just a thought.
On a different note i was pleasantly surprised with Black Eyed Peas! I thought Fergie's voice was awesome and the energy was way cool! And "Sweet Child 'O Mine" with Slash??? Off the hook!

Ann,

Djembe, not a conga.

 
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