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U2 wows Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG - That garish four-legged thing: they call it the claw, or the spaceship, or – less fantastically – the structure.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/05/2011 (4263 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

WINNIPEG – That garish four-legged thing: they call it the claw, or the spaceship, or – less fantastically – the structure.

No matter what the name, the claw is, at 50 metres tall, the largest piece of rock’n’roll furniture ever built. It is a looming aberration of olive-green skin pulled taut over scaffold bones and pierced by a spear of light.

It serves a purpose: its four talons shelter the stage and up to 2,000 fans, die-hards who camped out for up to four days for the honour of being wrapped by its lurid embrace.

David Lipnowski / Winnipeg Free Press U2 lead singer Bono performs with U2 in concert at Canad Inns Stadium Sunday night.

“The band wanted to get that intimate feeling,” tour producer Jake Berry told a crowd of press at the Canad Inns Stadium on Saturday, as over 100 workers scurried about the claw’s skeleton. “If we build a big structure, then we can get the stadium to feel small.”

The claw is predatory like that. It is arachnid, poised to swallow whole stadiums. It is also audacious, a fever dream pulled from the imaginations of four teen boys from the rough end of Dublin who dreamed they could be the biggest rock band in the world. Thirty-five years later, the echo of that reverie drove over 50,000 people into Canad Inns Stadium on Sunday night for what was to be the biggest concert Winnipeg has ever hosted: U2 360.

The two-year tour is on track to rake in $700 million by the time it wraps up in July. It is the most lucrative rock’n’roll tour the world has ever seen.

That dream wasn’t always so robust. The band woke up once, in 1989. That was when Bono, a.k.a. Bono Vox, a.k.a. Paul Hewson, stood on a stage near Dublin and told a stunned crowd it was time for U2 to “go away, and dream it all up again.”

Fans feared they were being given the news of U2’s demise. But having survived a bruising couple of years touring on The Joshua Tree and Rattle And Hum, what U2 really meant was: You want to see rock stars? Fine. We’ll show you some bloody rock stars.

What followed: the electro shockwave of Achtung Baby. Leather, sunglasses, the brazen satire of Zoo TV. Bono as the Fly, Bono as a salivating demon, Bono as a caricature of everything the band, back in their days jamming in drummer Larry Mullen Jr.’s family kitchen in Dublin, didn’t want to be.

And they brought tens of millions of fans in on the joke. They would pretend to be the most arrogant rock stars; and fans would pretend to believe it. But the truth was closer to the heart.

“U2 makes us feel as though they like us. Like we mean something,” said one woman, No. 75 in the crush of fans who lined up as early as 5 a.m. for a chance to surround the circular stage for which the tour is named. “And people like to be liked.”

mike.aporius@freepress.mb.ca At 50 metres tall, U2's 'claw' stage, seen here glowing over Canad Inns Stadium Sunday night, is the largest piece of rock’n’roll furniture ever built.

The fans and Bono; the fans and guitarist The Edge; the fans and Mullen and bassist Adam Clayton. They all dream this up together, this explosive thing called U2; when the show begins they are one, though not the same.

Here, the dream sharpened and gained shape outside the Burton Cummings Theatre over the weekend, where fans leaned for hours against barricades, ears tuned in to the riffs of the band’s rehearsals that wafted from stage doors left tantalizingly ajar.

But the dream finally became lucid at about 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, under the watchful talons of that claw.

Denver rockers The Fray had wrapped up their 30-minute set, the floor was an ocean of anxiously bobbing heads. The screen that wrapped around the claw’s heart broadcast global facts: the time in Tel Aviv, the number of babies born this year, the tallest building in “Winipeg” and another fact about the, erm, “state” of Manitoba.

Critics on Twitter scoffed; fans seemed inclined to give producers a pass. After all, dreams are always marked by idiosyncracies. Those would not be the ones that woke the dreamers.

“Hello Winnipeg, with two Ns,” Bono quipped, after leaping onto the stage while Edge struck out the opening chords of Even Better Than The Real Thing.

The crowd roared its approval — and tens of thousands of hands raised towards the stage, clutching at a band that laid its heart on the stage.

The illusion that you might touch them: this is what U2 360 Tour set out to achieve, and Bono, his slight frame swathed in sleek leather, set out to build it.

David Lipnowski / Winnipeg Free Press U2 lead singer Bono performs with U2 in concert at Canad Inns Stadium Sunday night.

Strutting out along the circular outer stage that ringed ‘round the claw, Bono played to the camera as much as the crowd — recognizing that with the bandmates’ every shake and shimmy broadcast over the giant video screen, those two things were one and the same. As he purred the verses to Elevation, he grabbed a camera and pressed his cheek close to the lens; his rakish stubble could be spotted from the nosebleeds.

In the first half of the concert, the rig stayed static while the band cavorted through some of their greatest (or just latest) including the elegant Magnificent — one of only two songs in the first half of the set drawn from their 2009 No Line On The Horizon, the album which launched the tour.

Mostly, it was straight-up rock’n’roll, delivered by a band that knows how to stand,

They had tricks up their sleeve, too: as dusk fell, Bono pulled a trembling fan from the floor on stage, wrapped an arm around her shoulder, and asked her to read a passage from a piece of paper. She did, and the words suddenly became familiar: “And she looked at me with her big brown eyes and said… you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

But none of us had seen nothin’ yet, not really. There were other things in store, greater things than a hat-tip to some classic Winnipeg troubadours. And those things began just before 10 p.m., as the sun slipped below the horizon and the claw’s real beauty rolled out.

In the fresh darkness, the video screen stretched downwards, its panels pulled out into a flickering funnel cloud. Beneath this veil, the band pushed itself into overdrive.

The fans raved right along with them. They stamped their feet to the blazing beats of Vertigo, shaking the upper deck and shouting a roaring back-drop to Bono’s chorus cry; as Edge picked out the cutting opening riff to Sunday Bloody Sunday, the stadium exploded, hanging on a lyric that was not just a plea, but a promise: tonight, they could be as one.

After all, isn’t that the goal to which all humanitarians aspire? Before moving into the swelling melody of Walk On, Bono struck that point. “She lived for the last 20 years under house arrest in her native country of Burma… but she’s out now,” the singer said, before tilting back his head and shouting a gospel call into the microphone. “Rejoice.”

Fans cheered; some visibly prayed, hands raised to the sky and eyes closed against the lights beaming down from the claw. They were pulled back minutes later, to sing a round of Happy Birthday in tribute to Amnesty International’s 50th year. And then the video screens flashed into an image of Suu Kyi’s beaming face. Urging viewers to push for human rights, she offered the segue into the concert’s triumphant closing tunes.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS U2's stage while under construction Saturday afternoon.

“It starts with just one person,” Suu Kyi said. “One.”

The final emphasis paved the way for the gorgeous ballad of the same name; it was followed by the quintessential U2 classic Where The Streets Have No Name, which closed the regular set as 50,000 voices burst into a tidal wave of cheers and shouts and cries.

They were promptly rewarded with a two-song encore, which kicked off with Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me. But before the four bandmates linked arms and walked proudly off the stage, they delivered something more delicate, more beautiful.

“Thank you Winnipeg,” Bono said, as he gently moved into the last chorus of the luscious ballad of With Or Without You. “Take out your phones. Take them out and turn this place into the Milky Way.”

And as the spotlights on the claw dimmed to nothing and a liquid blackness enveloped Canad Inns Stadium, 50,000 flickers sparked and danced, buoyed by the lingering romance of a dream that never quite fades away.

 

ConcertReview

 U2 360

 Canad Inns stadium

David Lipnowski / Winnipeg Free Press U2 fans wait for the band to go on stage at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg Sunday night.

 May 29, 2011

 ★★★★ 1/2 out of five

 

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

To view tweets from the U2 concert, click on the box below.

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Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin
Reporter-at-large

Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.

History

Updated on Sunday, May 29, 2011 11:31 PM CDT: Adds review and new photos.

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