Kenley (@kenleyyoung) posted this tweet Saturday afternoon before we left for the U2 concert in Anaheim.
He wasn’t disappointed.
U2 opened up with “Even Better Than the Real Thing” and followed with four straight songs from their critically acclaimed seventh record, “Achtung Baby.”
Kenley connected with “Achtung Baby.” The lyrics of his song “Ghosts” include, “I’d play ‘Achtung Baby’ and rehearse.” (You can listen to it here.)
I connected with “Joshua Tree” and “Rattle and Hum.” (I know many critics hated the latter and said it was an exploitation of American music, but aren’t the blues the root of rock and roll? “Rattle and Hum” introduced me to “Helter Skelter,” and I dig Bono’s raw voice mixed with the blues of B.B. King.)
Kenley bought the tickets from one of his bosses at FOXSports.com, who purchased them when the concert was originally scheduled for 2010. The tour was postponed for almost a year after 51-year-old Bono hurt his back during rehearsal.
It was our first trip to the O.C. (otherwise known as Orange County) and Anaheim. We passed DisneyLand, which seemed even smaller than I expected, on the way to Angel Stadium.
We made the nearly 45-minute trip without encountering too much traffic and found an Irish pub to grab some fish and chips and a Smithwicks before the show.
Lenny Kravitz opened up. Although neither of us is a huge Kravitz fan, it’s always fun to see talented musicians perform live, especially at an outdoor venue. And especially when the band features a saxophone and a trumpet and funky backup singers.
My favorite songs were “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” and “Let Love Rule,” which set up a theme for the night. Kravitz closed with “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” which Kenley revealed was one of the first CDs he ever bought. It was released in 1993, and he says the song and its iconic riff remain as incendiary as ever.
( I can’t remember the first CD I bought, but one of the first albums — yes, I mean vinyl albums — was Joan Jett’s “I love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” It was released in 1981. I also owned “Rattle and Hum.” On cassette tape.) What was your first album purchase? Tell us in the comments section.
U2 became known for their elaborate stage designs during the Zoo TV/Zooropa tour in 1992, which was actually in support of “Achtung Baby” and was the last time I saw the band. That stage incorporated lots of video and was a commentary on the 24-hour news cycle and the blurring of the lines between news and entertainment. The tour has been ranked as the best and the worst tour in rock history, but most critics agree it was one of the most memorable ever.
Almost 20 years later, the stage for the 360 degree tour is the largest ever built. It looks like a spaceship, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if it took off. It features a tall antenna and four clawlike legs that hold the speakers and the 360-degree video screen, which opens up like a net between sets. The stage also features a 360-degree ramp that surrounds the main stage and includes two moving bridges that bring Bono and The Edge over the audience on the field and closer together.
In fact, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” — Ground control to Major Tom — was played before U2 took the stage, and Elton John’s “Rocket Man” was played after the encore.
Despite the elaborate stage, there was no doubt Bono and the rest of U2 were the stars of the show. Bono’s rock-star presence was enormous from the moment he walked through the tunnel. He owned the stage and the 50,000 people in the audience, who were on their feet the entire show.
But Bono somehow made the stadium seem intimate with “One,” which he followed with the chorus of “Amazing Grace” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Kenley believes “One” to be in the top three songs of the ’90s and among the top 100 of all time. Please feel free to argue in the comments section.
Other highlights of U2’s set included: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With or Without You” from the album “Joshua Tree”; “Pride (In the Name of Love) from “Rattle and Hum”; and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” from “War.”
I might have to adopt the song “Elevation” as the official “Shellevation” theme song. Sure U2 wouldn’t charge any royalties.
You make me feel like I can fly
So high — elevation
When introducing the band, Bono joked that The Edge would be a great neighbor, referring to the guitarist’s highly publicized battle with the California Coastal Commission over plans to build several green mansions on a piece of pristine property in Malibu. The commission rejected the plan days earlier.
One of the most memorable moments came when astronaut Mark Kelly — the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is miraculously recovering from a gunshot wound after an assassination attempt — introduced the song “Beautiful Day” in a video recorded while in orbit in his space shuttle, which landed June 1. Giffords had selected the song to wake up the astronauts in May.
Bono also remembered Clarence Clemons, Bruce Springsteen’s legendary saxophone player, who died earlier on Saturday. He incorporated some of the lyrics to Springsteen’s “Jungleland” into the last verse of their last song, “Moment of Surrender.”
Outside the street’s on fire in a real death waltz
Between flesh and what’s fantasy, and the poets down here
Don’t write nothing at all, they just stand back and let it all be
And in the quick of the night they reach for their moment
And try to make an honest stand, but they wind up wounded, not even dead
Tonight in jungleland