I tweeted on Friday that I’d be busking a U2 song. The Irish band (THE Irish band?) were in town this week to play dates on their 360° tour at the Etihad stadium. I brushed off ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ that morning and went into town, eventually getting a spot in the Flinders Street station subway at rush hour to sing it on repeat for the passers-by. And very satisfying to sing it is, too! I took it down a couple of semitones to suit my range and had a great time belting out what must certainly be the archetypal U2 song: euphoric, defiant, numinous.
Imagine my surprise, then, dear reader when Jenny and her friend Ulla appeared in the tunnel complaining that I hadn’t been answering my phone (or checking my voicemail, or texts, or facebook, or Twitter…!) and could I please stop now because we had tickets for the gig! They headed off to hear Jay-Z’s support slot and I dashed home to drop off the guitar and have a quick shower.
The Etihad stadium is big – it holds over fifty-six thousand people – and it was amazing to be part of the crowd for the impressive show that the band put on. The stage was a marvel to behold – literally a spaceship with the wonderful screens that have surely revolutionised the stadium concert experience.
The most impressive element of the production for me was The Edge. Bono lauded his remarkable gifts when he did his introductions of the band members, but, just as he didn’t have to say anything about himself, the gifts of the guitarist were self-evident. The moment when my jaw dropped at his talents was the coda of ‘Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of’. The song was poignantly introduced as a paean to their sadly departed friend, Michael Hutchence (whose absence has been evident here in recent weeks, as the band he fronted continue with other singers), and Bono and The Edge did the song themselves, accompanied simply by Edge’s acoustic guitar. The coda section features The Edge on backing vocals (“…and if the night runs over, and if the day won’t last…”) and his falsetto was bang-on, powerful and assured. Another impressive Edge moment was in ‘New Year’s Day’: he plays the piano riff and then launches into the guitar solo that he’s played pretty much every night for thirty years. It’s the musical equivalent of Martin Luther King calling out the words of the old negro spiritual at the end of his “I have a dream” speech. (I don’t mean that every time they play it it’s a moment of great historical significance that draws on the familiar to harness the now…but that it feels just like one.)