Concert review: U2 at FedEx Field

Subtlety has never been one of U2's strong points.

Dublin's finest have almost always been about big -- from their catalog of arena anthems to their unabashed pleas for world peace. Does U2's 360 Degrees tour, which made a stop at FedEx Field last night, have one of the biggest stage setups in the history of live music? Of course it does.

In fact, if you ask lead singer Bono, the foursome has transcended band status altogether.

"The nation state that is U2 is a global force -- yet, a democracy," he told the crowd last night.

Sure, sure, Bono. Now you put those light purple shades back on and sing us another song. Because when U2 wants to rock, U2 rocks. "Beautiful Day" was about as epic as epic gets -- except, of course, until they played the even bigger, bolder "Where The Streets Have No Name."

For better or worse, the show itself was, at times, so excessive it was surreal ...

The production, which reportedly cost a whopping $40 million and takes roadies three days to break down, transport and set up again, was one of the wildest things I've ever seen at a show.

The round stage sat underneath this giant, futuristic, four-pronged claw. Directly above the stage was a circular video screen which expanded vertically and contracted again several times over the course of the night. A couple mechanized bridges let the band members walk out to a narrow outer platform that ringed the stage.

There was Bono, clad in all black, preening and preaching about global democracy and the fight against AIDs while standing in the middle of this evil-looking artifice. All the posturing and technological wizardry aside, U2 put on one of the best rock shows you'll see today.

The genius of The Edge is that even though he blankets his guitar work in reverb, echo and delay, he still sounds organic. Whether plucked or strummed, his notes rang out and filled FedEx Field like few guitarists could.

U2's two-and-a-half hour show was heavy on songs from their latest album, "No Line on the Horizon," which is one of their least commercially successful efforts yet. Though the single "Get On Your Boots" is far from being one of U2's best, live, it had spunk. And "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" worked much better recast as a disco tune.

The night's most poignant moments came when the band dipped a little deeper into its songbook. Drummer Larry Mullen Jr.'s snare cracked like gunshots on "Sunday Bloody Sunday," and bassist Adam Clayton's notes were thick and fuzzy on "New Years Day."

Here's a technical question: When the video screen crept downward to form a cylinder just a few feet above the band members' heads, could the folks on the top tiers see the musicians?

Bono tossed out teases of songs such as "Blackbird" and "Stand By Me" sporadically through the set, and sang a verse of "Amazing Grace" near the end of the show.

U2's performance ended with not one but two encores, in which Bono emerged wearing a jacket that emitted miniature laser-like beams of red light, and sang into a glowing microphone that hung from the rafters. He spoke-sang his way through most of "With or Without You," and closed out the night with the slow ballad "Moment of Surrender." That last song drug on for too long -- a poor choice to wrap up an otherwise bombastic show.

"Don't forget about us, now," Bono asked the crowd near the end of the night.

Don't worry, Bono. We won't.

(AP photos)

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