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Review of Melbourne, 18/11

U2 are currently taking a four day-long break before their Auckland shows - though considering reports that they will be filming a music video for Window In The Skies, it may not be such a break after all! In the time until U2's first concerts in New Zealand since December 1993, I would like to take this chance to review U2's final two shows in Australia, both exceptional concerts in Melbourne. Today's review is of the first concert.

Due to sickness, I chose not to join the GA queue, so I arrived at the Telstra Dome around 7pm. Although I unfortunately missed hearing the soundcheck, I do not necessarily view the late arrival as a bad thing. I managed to get a position in front of the light tower on Adam's side, and this afforded me quite a different perspective on the show than I have experienced before from the inner zone. It provided me with a much greater appreciation of the screen, which creates a much more imposing visual impression from further back in my opinion. However, if you are like me and enjoy to sing, jump, and dance during the concert, the inner zone is the place to be - the crowd outside seemed more calm most of the time.

Kanye West was greeted with a large amount of apathy from the fans around me. Many could not be bothered even watching him, and I felt that from such a point in the crowd, his audio mix was not very good anyway. Luckily, U2's mix sounded better. The band entered almost on time, just a couple of minutes after 9pm, to the familiar beautiful intro of City Of Blinding Lights. Vertigo and Elevation were performed well and seemed to strongly appeal to the fans around me. I Will Follow came next and I feel it was even more energetic than in Sydney, full of enthusiasm from the band. The two following "Day" songs were performed to a high quality, and at the end of Beautiful Day, Bono included an improvised spiel about performing with Paul McCartney at Live 8 before a snippet

I felt the next few songs in the setlist were poorly ordered. The jubilant Beautiful Day was followed by the sombre Stuck In A Moment, then the jubilant Angel Of Harlem, and finally the sombre Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own. Had Stuck In A Moment and Angel Of Harlem been swapped, the mood swings would have been avoided. However, despite this lack of mood cohesion, the songs themselves were played well. I am very fond of the Aboriginal artwork used during Stuck In A Moment (which is the same as that used during Walk On at its two performances). At the end of Angel Of Harlem, Bono pulled a girl on stage and even carried her on his back.

Next came the "war" trilogy of Love And Peace Or Else, Sunday Bloody Sunday, and Bullet The Blue Sky, which were all performed with their usual fire and passion. The highlight for me was Sunday Bloody Sunday, as I finally got to hear a snippet that works especially well in the song, Rock The Casbah. Miss Sarajevo is a powerful, moving way to follow the "war" trilogy and Bono naturally gave a tremendous performance. Every time I hear this song live, Bono's performance impresses me even more - it truly demonstrates that despite his vocal deterioration in previous years, he has regained a tremendous voice nowadays and can use it with more skill than he did in the past, when he shouted rather than sung songs such as Pride. Speaking of Pride, it is my opinion that while it was played very well in Brisbane, it has not matched those levels at subsequent concerts, but it nonetheless elicited an emphatic response from the Melbourne crowd. The reaction was even more powerful for Where The Streets Have No Name, and while One disinterested me, some of the fans around me found it quite powerful.

During the encore break, a couple of brief technical glitches gave me the distinct impression that the band did not intend to begin the first encore with Zoo Station, and indeed the opening riff of The Fly cut off the Zoo baby's "mama" cries one cry too early. This performance of The Fly was excellent and one of the highlights of the night, and I just feel it was a shame that many of the people around me did not respond very strongly to it! However, they did respond enthusiastically to Mysterious Ways and this high level of participation continued during With Or Without You. Both of those songs are definite crowd pleasers, though I feel past performances have been much better. With Or Without You seems somewhat lacking without either of the Love Will Tear Us Apart snippet or "shine like stars" verse added to the end. That said, I feel the lighting for With Or Without You, while simple, is very effective at conjuring up an appropriate mood or aura within the stadium. It makes the performance seem more ethereal and more intimate.

When rumours first began circulating that U2 were rehearsing The Saints Are Coming, I was a bit wary and unsure it was a good idea, but by the first performance in Melbourne, I was convinced it was more enjoyable than All Because Of You, and I am confident that the casual fans around me would not have responded nearly as well to All Because Of You as they did to The Saints Are Coming, which has hit number one on the Australian charts. Desire was next, and it sustains the encore's momentum nicely. Plus, it was performed to a much higher standard than the disastrous performance at the second Sydney show; the band clearly put some effort into rehearsing it!

Kite, as with all of the Australian concerts to this stage, was the last song of the night. It is a stunning and beautiful closer and was performed to a high standard, but I am not sure if it had very strong recognition amongst the casual fans. It is a shame to see some people under-appreciating this gem. However, I do feel it is a bit of an odd mood change to go straight from Desire to Kite. If I have one criticism of the order of the recent setlists, it is that some of the transitions do not necessarily sustain a cohesive mood. Every song is performed to a high quality, though, so I find this criticism is largely trivial - a minute into the beauty of Kite and you have already forgotten about how it was a bit odd to play it immediately after Desire.

This show was certainly sensational, and U2 should be commended for incorporating a wonderful visual display to accompany the music. I very much enjoyed viewing the show from a different perspective, even if I feel more "at home" in the inner zone. However, I do feel the second and third concerts in Sydney were of a higher standard than this one; it is quite hard to put my finger on exactly why, as the band played wonderfully every night. I suppose it is just to do with how "on" the band are. And while they were in good form at the first Melbourne show, the band certainly pushed the "on" switch into overdrive the next night!

Posted on by Axver

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