Review: U2 brings 'Beautiful Day' to Qwest
U2 played Seattle's Qwest Field on June 4, bringing moments big and small on what could truly be called a "Beautiful Day."
Special to The Seattle Times
If there was anything the 65,000 U2 fans at Seattle's Qwest Field could have found fault with in the band's show Saturday night, it might have been the choice of opening song. A magnificent night of music, on the best day of weather in nine months, might have kicked off with the one song in U2's catalog that would have best summed up this outdoor concert: "Beautiful Day."
As it was, "Beautiful Day" showed up 10 songs into the set, and Bono did acknowledge the weather: "The whole city looked like it had come out of a washing machine," he said, standing in the middle of the "Claw," the 90-foot-tall scaffolding that covered the stage.
The "Claw" was the most extravagant and creative staging ever used in any live performance. With 500,000 video pixels, it sometimes dominated the show and gave the proceedings an IMAX-in-the-making feel.
U2 has always been a band that loves a grand gesture, but they've also succeeded because their music conveys intimate emotion. That's why the highlights were the smaller moments, such as an acoustic take on "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)," where Bono leaned on guitarist the Edge. Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton were also spot-on all night.
The 360 Degree tour is the single biggest moneymaking tour in rock history because the circuslike spectacle of it is without peer. But the tour also has drawn fans because U2 reworked many of their songs with fresh arrangements. Bono alluded to this: "If there is one idea that underpins our band, it's the idea that you can start again."
The show was a personal renewal for the singer — it had been postponed for a year after he had back surgery. He seemed healthy, and effusive, and added lines from David Bowie, Carole King, R.E.M. and the Beatles into songs.
Even "You'll Never Walk Alone," made famous by Frank Sinatra, was worked into "Walk On." Amnesty International logo lights were paraded around the stage, and Bono talked about the detention and freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi; her son was at the show.
U2 songs are most inspiring when they are political (footage of Arab-world uprisings played during "Sunday Bloody Sunday"), but even with the 54-ton "Claw," it was a moment of personal intimacy during "Beautiful Day" that most moved. Astronaut Mark Kelly sent a video message from space to tell his wife (U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, injured in an Arizona shooting) he loved her, adding, "She knows." Bono worked the line into "Beautiful Day," making the sweet refrain of "she knows," originally from "Space Oddity," part of the song. It was that kind of small moment that made a giant show something to remember.
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