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Looking back on the Vertigo Tour's fifth leg

It has been almost a week since the last show of the Vertigo Tour. The Hawaii concert was the 131st of the tour (132nd if you count the Los Angeles public rehearsal), and the 13th of the fifth leg. The dust has now begun to settle on the Hawaii show, with the flow of news and reviews beginning to slow and a bootleg starting to circulate amongst the trading community and online (see U2Start.com for MP3s), so I feel now is a good time to look back on the final leg of the tour. An assessment of the entire Vertigo Tour shall come a bit closer to Christmas, so keep your eyes out for it.

The assertion that the fifth leg of the Vertigo Tour felt more like the U218 Singles Tour By Stealth is probably not far off the mark. It is remarkable for featuring a rather low amount of songs from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb - the only legs of tours with similar representation of songs from the most recent album are those legs that took place prior to the album's release, such as the "Pre-Tour" on the War Tour. Just five songs from HTDAAB appeared, and one of them, Yahweh, vanished after a mere two concerts. Love And Peace Or Else was the next victim, vanishing for four of the last five shows, leaving City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, and Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own as HTDAAB's representatives. It should be noted, however, that Original Of The Species was rehearsed in Melbourne.

One peculiar aspect of the fifth leg is that U2 rehearsed a few songs that were largely or wholly new to the tour and then didn't play them much. Probably the most notable example is Walk On: the band had not performed the full electric version since February 2002, brought it back at the Brisbane show, and then promptly ditched it after only two performances in favour of the more delicate but ultimately less exciting acoustic version that had been featured on the Vertigo Tour's third leg. Similarly, Stuck In A Moment had not been performed in full band form since December 2001 (although an acoustic version was performed frequently on legs three and four), and it made just three appearances, and surprisingly only one in Sydney, the hometown of its subject, Michael Hutchence. Also surprising was the debut of Window In The Skies, not due to the fact it was played but due to how late in the game it appeared. U2 have never debuted an original song live with so few shows to go on a tour before.

The fifth leg certainly had a different feel to prior legs. Songs that had not yet been played on tour or done just once showed up, and they fit the new mood of the tour. Angel Of Harlem and Desire were fantastic sing-alongs and very enjoyable, while Kite gave Australia and New Zealand a taste of the Elevation Tour and ended with the promise of "I know that this is not goodbye". New Zealand was treated to two stunning, transcendent performances of One Tree Hill, performances so good that it was hard to believe it had not been performed in nearly seventeen years. Meanwhile, in Japan and Hawaii, All I Want Is You made it into the setlist and the audience at the third night in Saitama was treated to a very rocking and emphatic Out Of Control.

The tour was very successful in terms of attendance. All thirteen shows were considered sellouts in the sense that every ticket put on sale was sold, although two (Hawaii and the third Sydney show) were not full to capacity. Nonetheless, over 60,000 attended the third Sydney show, and U2 may have set an attendance record in Hawaii. Attendance in other cities was far beyond previous tours: on Popmart, Brisbane failed to reach 20,000 in attendance, while on Vertigo, the same venue sold 50,000 tickets in mere hours. Adelaide last had a U2 concert in 1993 and it nearly didn't go ahead due to poor ticket sales, but for Vertigo, it mirrored Brisbane's performance as tickets were snapped up. For the first time ever, U2 sold out two stadium concerts in New Zealand, and the enthusiasm of New Zealanders showed that an additional show in Wellington may have been a viable option.

And, of course, the fifth leg had its humorous moments. Bono, Edge, and Kanye West all made amusing mistakes. At the very first show of the leg in Brisbane, Bono began his speech before One by pointing out "the beautiful moon" - only to realise he was actually looking at a spotlight and the moon was obscured by clouds. At the final show in Melbourne, Edge proclaimed "thank you, Sydney!" while the rest of the band cracked up. Some online accounts have claimed that someone wrote "Sydney" on Edge's setlist to fool him, but we don't yet have any evidence to confirm this and its status is currently merely "a rumour on the Internet". And at the second Auckland show, Kanye West made what I feel was the most amusing mistake, though this was perhaps a "you had to be there" sort of humour. Late in his set, his last in support of U2, he was giving his thanks, including to "Bono, Edge, Adam, and Lenny". For the rest of the evening, my friends and I found amusement in "Lenny Mullen Junior" jokes.

All in all, this was a fantastic leg. It had everything from Tim Moriarty's great didgeridoo accompaniment to Kite through to Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready performing Rockin' In The Free World with U2; rarities from One Tree Hill to The First Time; and awe-inspiring performances of tunes such as Bad, Miss Sarajevo, and The Fly. The new artwork for the songs was gorgeous, drawing upon Aboriginal designs in Australia and Maori ones in New Zealand. Bono's voice was in much better form than it was on the fourth leg or later stages of the third, and the enthusiasm of the band came across strongly. It's just a shame that we were not treated to the songs that made last year's Vertigo Tour setlists so exciting, such as Gloria, Discotheque, An Cat Dubh, Running To Stand Still, and the song that I would consider to be the tour's highlight, The Electric Co. That said, the songs we received were performed exceptionally and the band left those of us in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Hawaii with many fantastic memories. We can only hope they will be back soon to give us some more!

Posted on by Axver

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