July 10, 2009

The Future Gets a Big Kiss

From Blog (RED):

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Future Gets a Big Kiss

At the end of U2’s first set of their first show on their first tour in three years, as 90,000 fans roared for more, for the encore they knew they had earned, Camp Nou (the soccer stadium for FC Barcelona) went dark and the massive cylindrical screen showed the exuberant face of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, saying: “…Who are the same beautiful people I see when I look around this place tonight in 360 degrees (literally). We are those people, we are the same person. Because our voices were heard, millions more of our brothers and sisters are alive thanks to the miracle of AIDS drugs and malaria drugs. They will be doctors, they will be nurses, they will be scientists, who will live to solve GREAT problems. Yes there are many obstacles of course. There are always roadblocks in the way of justice. But God will put a wind at our back, and a rising road ahead, if we work with each other as ONE.”

At this final word – spoken in a rising soaring declaration of hope, the band was back, striking the first chords of “Where the Streets Have No Name” and the crowd pulsed, physically and audibly, like the fifth member of the band they are. It was one of the many moments in this show when this massive stadium - whose upper reaches felt, in the dusk before the band went on, like they were miles away filled with dots – suddenly curved in on itself and felt somehow small, intimate, immediate.

Part of this was due to the ingenious staging contraption that looked like that restaurant/control tower from LAX had just pounced into the stadium at midfield and was poised to jump off to Milan at any second. Its cylindrical screen expanded downward, spreading impossibly like those Chinese finger prisons.

But it was also because this crowd was a community. (RED) and ONE shirts were everywhere. Bono put on an FC Barcelona jersey (“Bono 1” on the back) “because they are the only team that, instead of advertising a brand, wears the UNICEF logo on their chests.”

And the coolest thing of all was that the stage, concentric circles at the center of an ellipse, was framed by the (RED) ZONES – the best seats in the house – placed (appropriately) like parentheses on either side. Leave it to U2 to devise a way to not only circumvent the secondary ticket market, but to do so in a way that raises funds for the Global Fund – creating, in a way, the ultimate (RED) product.

Friends asked me why I flew all that way to see the first show. “Go see them when they hit the US and the kinks are out,” they’d say. But as a long-time fan, and devout listener to the new album, I knew that this – the first time the band would play the songs from the new album in a true concert – was the moment the songs took on a life of their own. As 90,000 people followed Bono’s call and response on “Unknown Caller,” or erupted to Edge’s guitar in “Breathe,” echoed the “Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh”s of their masterpiece, “Moment of Surrender,” the fans completed the songs. And at the end of the third song, as the fans went crazy and the band built to another verse, the giant screen caught Bono’s face looking over at Edge with a huge smile. Happy to be back, I suppose, sending another album of amazing songs into the world.

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