This was my third time seeing them live, and while the first two shows (the "POPMART" tour at the Alamodome in San Antonio in 1997 and the "360" tour at Giants Stadium in NJ) were incredible, they seemed to be playing with even more energy and urgency this time around.
Some of the reviews I've read of the tour described them as playing the role of "underdog" this time around, with something to prove, and perhaps that's right. They've certainly had a challenging year, between the criticism they received for "forcing" their Songs of Innocence album into iTunes libraries (a move I had no complaints with personally, but it was certainly bold) and Bono's biking accident that left him in recovery for the next several months and by all accounts still unable to play the guitar at this point. So perhaps they do feel they have something to prove--and really, haven't they always fought to prove their relevance? Whatever the motivation, it works, and they dug into their early work with a confident, "we've earned this" swagger and played lesser-known tracks from the new album with urgency and polish.
I could continue to gush and do a full song-by-song rundown, but there's really nothing new I can add that hasn't been outlined before.
The only thing I do feel compelled to note is my frustration with modern audiences. The entire row in front of me spent more time on their phones than actually watching the concert. Seriously, the couple right in front of me never put them down once and were continually refreshing their Instagram and Facebook feeds if they weren't taking pictures or video, or reviewing the shots they'd already captured. I just don't get this. Why even bother leaving home if you're going to spend the whole time worrying about missing something online? Is the #fomo impulse actually strong enough to cause you to miss real life? Even when you've spent presumably hundreds of dollars between you to be here for this actual, in-person experience?
Again, I'm not saying anything new, but I'd never seen such a stark example.
My other "old man" beef was just the blatant demonstration of lack of collective interest in the newer songs. We'd jump to our feet for the hits, but then immediately sit back down for the new tracks. I took a small, stubborn measure of pride in standing through and knowing the words to most of the new songs, but I realize I wasn't making any statements, and probably just annoying the people behind me.
I typically assume that if you go to the effort and expense to see a band in concert, you're likely a hardcore fan and perhaps even as obsessive as I am about the music and other things you love and are also here having somewhat of a religious experience, but that's clearly not true. It's more likely, and probably unsurprising to everyone but me, that I'm the oddity and the vast 99% of concertgoers are merely casual fans who just want to hear the hits. And that's fine, I guess.
So I guess I speak for the 1% when I say "get off my lawn", put on my earbuds, and go back to my carefully curated playlist of the night's setlist.
I'll end with one of the better clips I found of their raucous , bare-bones opener, The Miracle (or Joey Ramone) from one of the Chicago shows.
(Post image via Vulture.com // Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)