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Review of Brisbane, 07/11

Well, it's a bit belated due to university priorities and travelling to Sydney to see U2 again, but here it is finally: the review of the first concert of the Vertigo Tour's fifth leg, 7 November 2006 in Brisbane!

Firstly, a condensed review. The band were slightly rusty but very enthusiastic and energetic and performed an excellent show. The new songs introduced into the set sounded brilliant, and I feel the best songs of the night were Love And Peace Or Else and The Fly. The only truly weak moment was Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own. Bono made a humorous comment at the start of his speech preceding One: "look at that beautiful moon! Oh, it's a spotlight." During the encore, the character of The Fly returned to the stage when Bono accepted a pair of glasses like his Zoo TV Fly pair from a fan and wore them during the band's performance of The Fly. For more details, click 'read more'.

I arrived at the Queensland Sports and Athletics Centre at approximately 2pm to discover a sizeable but not overwhelmingly large queue had already developed; about 800 people by my estimation. The queue was set up on a secondary field beside the main stadium, and I very quickly discovered that this was not a good idea. Standing around in the Queensland heat under a cloudless sky with no shade whatsoever soon made waiting very tedious and uncomfortable, though I am sure the people selling cold water made a tidy profit.

Just after 4pm, security got the line to stand up and prepare to enter the stadium, but Kanye West's soundcheck ran overtime and we did not actually start entering the stadium until closer to 5pm. I was successful in gaining entry to the inner zone and I staked out a position a few metres back from one of the b-stages, the one on the right hand side as one faced the stage, on Adam's side. This position was enhanced by the fact that it was where the floor covering rose, affording an extra inch of height and thus an enhanced view.

Kanye West began his set slightly later than the scheduled time of 6:30pm. He did not meet with an enthusiastic reception from the crowd, who largely paid him little attention. He received some heckles and boos, especially when he attempted to blame the press for exaggerating his recent controversial behaviour. To his credit, he did succeed in making effective use of the large stage space on offer.

U2 were meant to take the stage at 8pm, but the clock ticked past eight and the band failed to appear. A member of U2's crew soon took the stage and made a brief announcement that the band were ready to play, but as many fans had not yet been admitted to the stadium, the show's commencement would be briefly delayed. It turned out that the security procedures for seated ticketholders were excessively lengthy and a considerable amount of fans were queued outside.

It was not until approximately 8:30pm that the familiar strains of Wake Up by The Arcade Fire blasted from the PA, followed by the "Everyone" intro. The beautiful, ethereal opening notes of City Of Blinding Lights then washed over the stadium and a deafening roar came from the crowd as the band launched enthusiastically into the concert. At the end of City Of Blinding Lights and again at the start of Elevation, Bono made reference to the rain that had poured during the previous night's rehearsal. Vertigo received a rapturous response from the fans, but was struck by a technical difficulty late in the song when Edge's guitar cut out. Fortunately, at this point, Bono was carrying the song and Edge soon rejoined the song.

Until The End Of The World continued the pace set by the opening songs, but the concert truly erupted with the opening bass notes of New Year's Day. This sent the crowd into a frenzy, especially around me when Adam came for a wander to the b-stage during Edge's solo, a solo that Bono labelled as perfect. The tone of the concert was sustained through Beautiful Day, which thoroughly soared at the end. My only complaint is that I feel its light show was not as effective as the song warranted, and this complaint extends to the next song, but for different reasons. Yahweh offered a change of pace and a chance for both band and fans to catch their breath, but instead of being accompanied by religious themed artwork from the rehearsal that possessed a connection to the "coexist" theme, only basic lighting was used.

Following Yahweh was the first full band, electric performance of Walk On since 27 February 2002 - the previous seven Vertigo Tour performances had all been acoustic affairs. Although Bono's timing at the beginning was off, the performance was rousing and was accompanied by excellent Australian Aboriginal-themed artwork. Unfortunately, the following song, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, did not live up to Walk On's standard, despite Bono excellently hitting the "sing" note, I felt the song was the weakest of the night.

Bono's drumming during Love And Peace Or Else provided a good degree of amusement to some of the fans, and the song signified the start of the show's highly political segment. Despite the postponement of the tour, the Vertigo experience has lost none of its political overtones. During Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bono made a call for alleged terrorist David Hicks to be returned to Australia from US custody at Guantanamo Bay, in order to receive "a fair trial". The familiar coexist "rap" was retained, and Bono brought a young child named Cassidy on stage to sing the "no more" portion with him. Bullet The Blue Sky stayed true to the earlier Vertigo Tour versions and featured Bono's blindfold routine, and although Bono initially seemed to be holding back on the operatic vocals in Miss Sarajevo, he beautifully struck the main notes and received a loud ovation.

One of the most emphatic audience responses was reserved for Pride, which seemed even more anthemic than usual. Bono was in fine form and the crowd song along loudly, and when the outro segued into Where The Streets Have No Name, the loudest cheer of the night erupted. Following Streets was one of the funniest moments of the night at the very start of Bono's One speech. Looking up, he remarked "isn't that a beautiful moon?", followed by a pause as he realised the moon was actually obscured by clouds, and then "oh, it's a spotlight!" When the moon did come out later, Bono made a point of observing that fact!

After One concluded the main set, the crowd eagerly chanted for more, and they soon received it. The Zoo slots appeared on screen, with famous Australians Cathy Freeman and Kylie Minogue appearing on the first lot and Prime Minister John Howard and former Midnight Oil singer and now politician Peter Garrett on a later series, with John Howard receiving boos. Bono began Zoo Station by singing the wrong lyrics, opening with the second verse, but the performance was nonetheless effective and was followed by what was, in my opinion, the best song of the night. It was particularly great for one fan who was celebrating his 19th birthday that day. At the start of The Fly, he caught Bono's attention and passed him a pair of Fly glasses, just like the pair Bono wore on Zoo TV: All of a sudden, the character of The Fly returned as Bono donned the glasses. The tone was set for a blistering performance and the band did not disappoint. The third and final song of the first encore, With Or Without You, has suffered from weak performances in recent years, but this one maintained the quality of the preceding numbers and truly soared.

The second encore began with what Bono called a world premiere, and in a sense, he was right. Although The Saints Are Coming had been performed back in September with Green Day in New Orleans, U2 had never done it by themselves, but they played a very effective cover, one that I felt was better than the song usually played in this setlist position, All Because Of You. And then next came a considerable surprise: only the second performance of Angel Of Harlem on the Vertigo Tour, and the first planned performance since 1 December 2001 as the 29 October 2005 performance took place after a fan was pulled on stage to play guitar with the band.

The concert closed with an exceptional tour debut. Kite had not been performed live since 2 December 2001, and it was brought back in style. Bono thanked the crowd for its patience due to the postponement, and introduced Tim Moriarty to play didgeridoo. The didgeridoo was only part of the new version of Kite, which also features an extended second solo by The Edge, followed by Bono repeating the chorus and closing the show by emphasising "I know that this is not goodbye." He promised that U2 would not take so long to come back - we can now only hope that he keeps his word as this concert was excellent and Brisbane is certainly eager for more!

Posted on by Axver

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