U2: Circus Meets Social Change

u2
I wasn’t even planning on going…

Two nights ago my wife said to me, “I hear that U2 is playing in Vancouver tomorrow night… why the HELL aren’t you going?!!”

From her perspective: I’m a huge fan, I have the money, so there’s no reason not to go. I responded that I just didn’t think about it. That, besides the big Doobies-Allmans-Dead show back in May, I hadn’t been to a big arena concert in years and didn’t really care to go. (Granted, the Dead show was, always was, more like a mind-altering hippie field trip than an a stadium rock show.)

And that was that.

The next morning a friend posted on Facebook that she had two extra tickets available…

We drove up 20 minutes and crossed the border into British Columbia, Canada, then drove 20 more minutes north and parked the car at the 22nd Street Skytrain station. Feeling very metropolitan, we landed several blocks from BC Place Stadium (heard once that locals used to call it the marshmallow in bondage), and…

Listen: U2 are the undisputed kings of arena concerts. Their music, their stagecraft, their egos consistently deliver a show that is an audiovisual feast, a circus, really, in all the best ways.

I mean, just look at this thing:

u2-360

That said, if all that U2 amounted to was a circus troupe, they’d be considered successful by any measure. But what makes them even more special is their commitment to social change. Recognizing the real power of their celebrity, they’ve chosen to leverage it, with all the accompanying corporate sponsorship and superficialities, to do great things.

(Incidentally, many tend to attribute their efforts solely to Bono, but the rest of the band show their commitment in a big way by supporting Bono’s work and consenting to dedicate significant stage time to the delivery of social change messages. Last night included a tribute to Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, a video message from Archbishop Desmond Tutu preaching that we’re all one, and Sunday Bloody Sunday was prefaced with visuals referencing Iran’s crackdown on reform protesters.)

U2 marries John Lennon’s pragmatic social activism with Pete Townshend’s more idealistic spiritual notion that rock and roll can truly change the world for the better.

It was a great setlist, spanning their catalog without sounding like a Greatest Hits compilation. It was also the final night of this first stage of the tour, and there was a special feeling in the air that I attribute to their wrapping up before a break, wanting to end on a high note.

It certainly was a high note for me.

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