U2 Denver, 360° Tour at Invesco Field, 5/21/11
With The Fray
05.21.11 | Invesco Field
View U2 at Invesco Field slideshow
Say what you will about U2. Name another band that can fill a stadium these days... Time's up. Drawing a blank? That's because there aren't any -- certainly not any from this era. That said, you've got to give it the band its props: Without question, it can still put asses in the seats. Just the same, let's remember: The band has had more than three decades to cultivate its following. That's an eternity by today's standards.
By contrast, openers, the Fray -- who, along with U2's many other descendents, Coldplay, Kings of Leon, Muse, Arcade Fire, is the the closest we come to something that passes for iconic these days -- is a bit of a marvel for still standing after two records and nearly a decade in the game. That said, not to take anything away from U2 or those bands, but c'mon, is it really all that noteworthy to be the tallest guy in a room full of short people?
But let's forget about all that for a moment, and talk about the actual tour itself. There's certainly been no shortage of folks, particularly within the U2 camp, willing to pat themselves on the back for the grandiosity of the whole spectacle. And to be clear, it is a spectacle. The towering, ostentatious structure -- which, you can probably see from space, and which takes nearly as long to erect as it took God to speak us into existence -- is truly something to behold, the revolving bridges, the giant LEDs, the dazzling illumination.
But is it truly magnificent, or have we simply become so accustomed to not being dazzled in this new century that all you need to win us over is a few megatons of steel and some flashing lights? Are we are so easily awed that we're oblivious to the fact that what we have here is really a lot of sizzle and not a lot of steak?
As I looked around at the awestruck expressions plastered to the faces of those around me as the band lowered its LED screens, cloaking itself with a mesh of screens that resembled a giant bug zapper during "Zooropa" and the fittingly titled "City of Blinding Lights," I couldn't help but be reminded of that scene from A Bug's Life, in which one winged creature pleads with another: "No! Hurry! No! Don't look at the light!" Inexplicably drawn to the glowing display, his counterpart responds intoxicatingly: "I can't help it. It's so beautiful." That, as you might recall, is immediately followed by the unmistakable sound of his demise, BZZZT!
I will give them this, though: there really wasn't a bad seat in the house. As advertised, the sight lines were mostly unobstructed. The only place in the stadium that might have been less desirable were the seats of those who happened to be seated behind the stage in the South Stands. It's not that you couldn't see. It's just that although Larry Mullen's drum riser rotated, and Bono and the other guys made a concerted effort to journey across the bridges to the outside track that circled the stage, where they played to the various sides of the stadium, for the most part, the outfit played facing the opposite direction.
But I'm just nitpicking here, really; you could lodge such a complaint with that sort of seating arrangement at any show. Most shows block that section off, actually. There really isn't an effective way to play in the round a full 360° -- well, unless the stage rotated constantly (talk about vertigo.) Fortunately, there was plenty else to distract those folks.
Which brings us to the visuals: Now maybe it's because I still have that epic Roger Waters Wall show at the Pepsi Center from this past November fresh in my memory -- and perhaps that has spoiled me for all subsequent arena rock experiences -- but for all of its pomp and circumstance, I was a bit underwhelmed by U2's much ballyhooed 360° Tour, particularly the visuals, some nods to previous outings.
In the PopMart-era, this sort of thing might've been considered ground-breaking, but by today's standards, the random images and sound bites laid over and interspersed with stream of consciousness-like text felt a little hackneyed. By now, we've seen it all before. A thousand times. And better. Not only from this band, but from other acts. In a much smaller context, even. Honestly, I was probably more arrested by Muse's presentation, and Madonna did a similar thing cloaking herself for a few songs with a wall of LEDs descended from the rafters.