Concert Report: U2/Muse “360 Tour”

I’m generally a “small venue” kind of person – I like tiny places like New Brookland or Ground Zero where you basically stand right up against the stage and reach out to touch whoever’s playing. I like the crush of the crowd (kind of), the particular sickeningly-sweet smell of 300 people crammed into too-small-a-space to hear their favorite band play their hearts out.

But everybody ought to have the arena experience at least once before they die. And when U2/Muse decided to come to Atlanta Tuesday night, I knew I’d found my “once before I die” moment.

Our view of the U2 stage. Seats were pretty good, for being the almost-cheapest.
Our view of the U2 stage. Seats were pretty good, for being the almost-cheapest.

U2 isn’t legendary because they’re sophisticated, incredibly talented, or particularly deep. They aren’t novel, really. They don’t blow your socks off with unmatched musicianship.

But they’re famous for good reason.  U2 changed the face of the musical landscape. They brought along a brand of rock that pushed everyone after them in a different direction. They’ve changed with the times (whether you like that or not) and stuck to their musical center. Long and short, those 4 old men can still ROCK… and make it glorious.

Our trip to the Georgia Dome cut things a bit tight … we just couldn’t get out of NCS any faster than we did, and we had to get some supper before arriving in ATL or we’d never make it through the entire night. After missing a MARTA train by just seconds (and waiting 10 min for the next one), we missed Muse’s opening song. But we heard the other 8 just fine. 

Muse is a great band. I like their stuff a lot. I’m sorry the recent album isn’t as good as Origin of Symmetry orAbsolution (both of which you need to go buy. Right now. Do it… I’ll wait….).  But I don’t hate the new stuff.  And, more importantly — I got to hear stuff like “Hysteria” live, and “Time is Running Out.”  An awesome moment in my musical life up to this point. 

Muse setlist:
–United States of Eurasia (I think)
Uprising (I think)
Map of the Problematique
Super Massive Black Hole
Hysteria
Resistance
Starlight
Time Is Running Out

The set for the 360 tour is crazy. I’ve got photos up on Facebook if you wanna look. Imagine a large alien bug squashed into a space ship with a huge TV screen for a belly. Now you’re close. Go look at the pictures.  Got it?  OK. They did incredible stuff with that stage. Colors. Lights. Shapes.

Honestly, U2 just did incredible stuff. All the time. It was amazing. They sang their hearts out for 2+ hours.  50,000 people belting out great songs with great texts that actually mean something. How cool is that?  Bono can still sing after all these years. The Edge worked his magic. It was awesome.

I can’t even tell you all the songs U2 performed. Coart guesses they played around 20. Maybe 25. It was nuts.  I know we heard classics like “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” (dedicated to the Iranian peaceful revolution) to “Walk On” (dedicated to the Burmese political prisoner lady who was elected president of Burma 20 years ago but has spent 18 in prison on trumped-up charges). They hit several from the new album — I don’t know those — but remembered the great older songs like “Beautiful Day” (can I get a shout-out from my chapel musicians!!) and “Stuck in a Rut” and several more I can recognize but have trouble naming. Two hours!

We expected an encore.
There were 3.
I was stunned. 

Each just got better. The 2nd encore consisted of Bono by himself with a guitar singing “Amazing Grace.”  His voice, scratchy now with fatigue from the show, age, and emotion, poured out the words of the classic hymn. Thousands joined him… and then The Edge seamlessly blended in the opening chords to “Where the Streets Have No Name.”  Absolutely incredible.  Bono knows how to stop a show, how to sink his entire life and soul into a single moment.

The final encore made use of the round neon pink microphone (which you might have seen on SNL a couple weeks ago) for their new song about the power of Love. But the band capped off the show with a united U2/crowd version of “With or Without You.” Exhausted, the 4 bandmates — who have somehow managed to make music for 30 years unhampered by the usual juvenile bickering that plagues men with so much money, fame, and power — walked off the stage together. Equals. It’s not a Bono show… it was a great night of great music from men who play because (it appears) after 30 years they still love making music.

And making a difference. I don’t know how many Project(RED) seats were set aside in the auditorium, but they easily raised a million dollars last night alone for AIDS relief in Africa.  Yes, folks, we really can make a difference.

Last thing:
I loved the inter-generational nature of the audience. We saw kids. We saw teens out on a concert adventure in the “big city of Atlanta.” We ran across multitudes of college kids and 20something couples on an early anniversary date. We saw middle-aged folks and gray beards who must be in their 60s.  I think it’s cool when one musical group can unite so many ages like that.

Truly, seeing U2 live is a “bucket list” experience.  We found out that General Admission (stand on the stadium floor) tickets were only $30 – and would have offered a great view of the spectacle.  If you ever get the chance — GO.

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