Aloha Stadium is overrun by fans for the finale of the band's Vertigo world tour
By Gary C.W. Chun
It was the last night to attend the church of U2 at Aloha Stadium Saturday, and the near sell-out "congregation" literally rocked the stands to end the band's Vertigo World Tour. As Bono mentioned early on, it was "a gathering of the faithful," and thanked the fans that had gathered last night from the world over for their patience and faith in the band.
To celebrate the many months spent on the road, first all 131 dates scrolled on the giant video projection screen on stage, ending with a roar from the crowd on "131. Honolulu." With that, guitarist the Edge launched into the opener "City of Blinding Lights."
The versatile staging, high-definition video screen, and the two 192-speaker banks that emitted a crisp, clean sound, made for one of the more technically sophisticated shows at the stadium. It was proof positive that U2 does put on the best concerts around.
The band's set and two encores were filled with songs that have been staples on this last Pacific Rim leg of the world tour. After the opening power of "City...," "Vertigo" and "Elevation," U2 delighted the roaring crowd with a ringing rendition of their very first '80s hit, "I Will Follow."
The staging included two semi-circular ramps extending from the stage and into the eager audience in the field area. When the band members, at times, walked down the ramps to be amongst the crowd, there was an intimate and comfortable rapport between U2 and their adoring audience.
People in the crowd were sometimes invited on stage to interact with Bono. One lucky audience member actually had the guts to get up on stage, position himself behind the Edge's keyboard setup, and actually lead the band through an unexpected and impromptu rendition of the rarely played "Who's Gonna Ride Your White Horses." At song's end, he gleefully ran down the stage right ramp and leapt for joy back into the crowd.
Bono showed he was in fine voice as well, getting cheers and spontaneous applause for his singing on "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own," a tribute to his late father, and "Miss Sarajevo," where he negotiated his way around the original Luciano Pavarotti Italian operatic tenor part very well.
But along with the declarations of faith, both spiritual and secular, was the sociopolitical statements, highlighted by the one-two punch of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Bullet the Blue Sky." Bono exhorted the crowd to honor the faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam as the word "coexist" was shown behind him in large red letters.
The articles of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also scrolled behind the band during a hearty version of "Pride (In the Name of Love)," the song that honors the memory of Martin Luther King and had its actual roots during the band's last Hawaii visit way back in 1984.
U2 ended the set proper in a darkenend stadium lit up by cellphones, with the song "One" also a plea to the audience to join the nearly half-a-million people who have signed up for Bono's One campaign to fight AIDS and poverty, particularly in Africa.
The band would encore twice: first, with a visual dazzle on "The Fly" and "Mysterious Ways," then stark and sombre with a moving "With or Without You."
But the final encore of the tour was the big surprise. After doing one of their new singles "Window in the Skies," Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong came out to join the band on "The Saints are Coming," a song he and his bandmates did with U2 when the football New Orleans Saints came back to a once devastated gulf city and its Louisiana Superdome to open its home season.
Right after that, guests Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready of Pearl Jam joined the band on a revised rendition of Neil Young's "Rockin' In the Free World," complete with new lyrics that spelled out the two bands' work to end extreme poverty.
U2 would have the last word, however, as the night would end on a gentle "All I Want Is You." And with that, the large crowd happily dispersed into the Hawaiian night, knowing that they had seen a very special concert.