U2 at Cowboys Stadium: Reviewing both

Posted on 13 Oct 2009 at 2:42pm

Gee, how do you characterize a kick-ass concert that was a pain-in-the-ass to attend? It took us 45 minutes in rush hour to drive from Downtown Dallas to Exit 29 in Arlington… and another hour to get from the exit to our parking space. That mean we completely missed opening act Muse, and arrived too late for the up-close photos. (It didn’t help that no one who worked at the stadium seemed to have a clue about anything.)
But while there are still many mega-problems involved with the stadium’s logistics, the facility is marvelous (and very concert-acoustically friendly). And U2? Read about them after the jump.

U2 has always been an easy group to like but a difficult one to love … at least if your diva-detector is anywhere over the minimum range. Bono and company have been such social proselytizers, and so self-importantly so, for so many decades, that buying an album has sometimes felt like a political act more than a musical one. It’s enough to put you off your feed, no matter how well-intentional or in sync they are with your views. No one wants to feel lectured at by their music.
But the music speaks volumes for itself. It is danceable as much as rockin’; fun and thoughtful. And if Bono seems needlessly into himself, well, that’s the price you pay for genius.
And the concert at Cowboys Stadium, their 360 Tour, was genius.
Bono, still in good voice nearing 50, skipped about the stage energetically, even bringing a 14-year-old boy onstage near the end to share the spotlight (what a rush that must have been for the kid). There was showmanship but not of the cheesy, over-produced kind. The “spaceship” — what Bono called the portable stage with tubular projections screen — was all the special effects you needed. And while the visual were awe-striking, the music carried the day.
Carried it, even when the band didn’t. On “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” Bono began the first words, then allowed the crowd,  some 70,000 strong, to sing it out. And sing they did. U2, for all its pontificating, writes catchy tunes.
They perform them even better. The set was light on the newest stuff (a good thing); “Mysterious Ways” clocked in at song no. 4, followed by “Beautiful Day.”
But it wasn’t a greatest hits tour by any means. Only during the second encore did they get around to “With or Without You” and “Where the Streets Have No Name,” but the concert would have felt complete without it. There were verses of “Major Tom,” “Blackbird” and “Stand By Me” throw in for good measure.
The pretentiousness did sneak in. The end of the initial 90 minute opener included digital doves and a tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi; Desmond Tutu made a video appearance. But the group was unified, organic. It’s almost impossible to believe these four men are making all this music.
Larry Mullen Jr. isn’t the cute blond hunk he was two decades ago, but his drumming still rocks; The Edge has aged well into a hot daddy, and his guitar riffs can’t be topped. Adam Clayton, wearing the gayest shirts this side of The Liberace Museum, kept the bass-work anchoring these force-forward songs.
And you can’t underestimate how the venue and the size of the audience fed the show. U2 hard to love? Maybe. But not last night. There was a lot of love in there. On both sides of the stage.

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