For a few years now, I’ve had U2 on my list of musicians that I have to see. I wouldn’t have considered myself a huge fan but because their catalogue is as extensive as it is and they have a wide selection of great songs, plus their reputation as one of rock’s best live bands, as a music fan they’re pretty much a requirement. This same list also hosts Madonna as one of my must-see performers.
This past weekend, I was able to fulfill this wish when we traveled to Moncton to see them with openers Carney and Arcade Fire. The concert took place in the Magnetic Hill park area, which was my first time visiting. It was raining when we arrived which made the long line-up slightly frustrating but luckily, we were last-minute prepared with plastic ponchos and new shoes better suitable for the impending mud, as well as plastic bags on my feet. We had Red Zone tickets which pretty much put us right by the stage.
And what a stage it was! Known as The Claw, it’s the biggest stage setup in the world, made to suit a surrounding audience rather than the typical forward-facing stage. The setup had the centre stage with an outer platform on the outside perimetre and bleachers on three sides with standing room on the fourth side. Estimates had 80,000 people in attendance.
The stage itself was incredible! A symbol representing the two year long record-breaking world tour that covered 110 shows and made three quarters of a billion dollars since it began in mid-2009. Amazing lighting, massive LED screen and moveable stage sections made for incredible visuals. Whoever was the mastermind behind such an elaborate setup is a genius and to be able to set it up to match the U2 show was amazing!
The openers Carney played as the crowd continued to grow just as the rain had finally stopped. They had a short set consisting of their own material except for a cover of Queen‘s Bohemian Rhapsody with I Want You by the Beatles. Crowd pleasers Arcade Fire were up next. I’ve wondered how many came actually to see them with U2 as the bonus performers rather than the other way around. They did an awesome performance with their many band members. Watching so many people perform simultaneously was a treat in itself and seeing the songs performed live made me appreciate them that much more.
U2 hit the stage just after 9:30 kicking it off with Even Better Than The Real Thing. Being in the presence of Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullin felt like being the presence of royalty. They define the phrase “world class performer.” Bono clearly knows enough about the places he’s performing in while he’s there. He shows a genuine interest in the history and the people.
The incredible thing about the concert but the feeling of unity the band would present during and between songs. Without sounding cheesy or preachy, Bono was able to bring out the idea that there was a feeling of connectivity between us and the rest of the world with the visuals and his own speaking. The common theme of seeing the entire planet from space was recurring and peaked just before Beautiful Day when a clip from the International Space Station came up, astronaut Mark Kelly helped introduce the song by reciting lyrics from Bowie‘s Space Oddity. And during the bridge, he recited the lines as well which felt so amazingly fitting as they are best experienced from his perspective. “See the world in green and blue/See China right in front of you/See the canyons broken by cloud /See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out/See the Bedouin fires at night/See the oil fields at first light/And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth/After the flood all the colors came out.”
At one point, Bono asked that all the lights be turned off and that the audience provide their own light which presented an amazing view of lighters, cell phones and camera flashes that was reminiscent of Earth from space at night.
All in all, the set lasted for two and a half hours, finishing at around midnight. 26 songs later. Easily the most powerful and one of the more impressive shows I’ve ever witnessed. Despite the rain, wet feet, muddy shoes from trekking through ankle deep mud afterward, the frustratingly long lineup arriving and leaving the venue, the hilariously devious celebrity/twitter rumours, and expensive food and drink, it was a day very well worth it.
See the setlist here