U2 In Barcelona: A Two Hour Dazzling And Surreal Fireworks Show

U2log.com reviews U2’s 360 Tour Opening Nights in Barcelona.

by Fabienne Tafani
by Fabienne Tafani

It is rather tricky to assess a tour, especially a U2 tour, based on two shows alone – a fortiori, the two shows that launched a world tour such as the 360°. In this case, the job seemed all the more perilous to me, since I had lukewarm feelings about the Vertigo Tour in 2005. Compared with the previous U2 tours, the outdoor leg had left me frustrated in terms of overall concept, stage design and lack of communication between the band and its audience. It is a completely different story, though, that began at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona, on June 30th and July 1st.

As soon as you get into the stadium, the hugeness of the stage takes your breath away – a stage that is halfway between unidentified flying object and a futuristic sci-fi spaceship. As a result, Camp Nou, the biggest stadium in Europe, ends up looking like a humble, modest-sized host. The pitch looks strangely shrunk, allowing every member of the audience to feel close to the stage. To succeed in expressing a feeling of intimacy mixed with outrageousness: that was the announced – and achieved – tour de force. The eagerness of the passionate Spanish and international audience, contributed to the greatness of both nights. Right from the start at 9pm, the whole venue was on fire and the Mexican wave went round the stadium numerous times, the audience loudly showing their support for the band.

As soon as the band gets on stage, the tone is set for the night. It is Bono on one of his great days, fevered and kicking, the one who is able to fire up crowds with one single gesture. The four members of the band look close-knit again, and do their best to fill the huge stage that they stride all along the shows. They seem happy and proud to be on stage, on this stage, and they keep on smiling, laughing, and winking at the audience. A few little technical problems or skipped lyrics remind us that they are not blasé or polished robots, but simply artists under pressure despite their thirty-year long live experience. The satellite link with the International Space Station on the first night definitely settles the exceptional nature of this tour configuration.

As for set-lists, U2 seems to have picked up a three-part outline. The central part shifts both nights, leaving space for numerous surprises, such as Electrical Storm, Angel of Harlem, Desire, and Party Girl. The 360° Tour is marked by songs from The Unforgettable Fire album, which is consistent with the omnipresence of Brian Eno’s sounds on the album No Line On the Horizon.

The big risk-taking of these nights lies in the exciting remixed version of I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t go Crazy Tonight, which instantly turns the gig into a huge techno party. The band seems to define itself now as part of the 00’s, as they highlight numerous titles of their latest “trilogy”: No Line On The Horizon of course, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. The explosive response of the audience to City of Blinding Lights and Vertigo, shows that the Vertigo Tour is still deeply anchored in the spirits, and that U2 is now carried by a huge number of fans who joined in five years ago.

In the end, the overall impression left by these shows is paradoxically (even) more visual than musical. The beautifully-enlightened Claw offers two hours of a dazzling and surreal fireworks show, partly in the manner of the artwork of Gaudi, who inspired its design.

These shows also highlight something new: one of U2’s features is to invent and design tour concepts in perfect harmony with the albums that inspires them. And yet, the link between the 360° Tour and the album No Line On The Horizon is far from obvious at first sight – apart from the tour being a support for the new titles. There is even a striking gap between the extreme sobriety of the album artwork, the relative classicism of the songs and the gigantic visual explosion that is displayed during the shows. For the first time in the history of U2, the tour was not named after one of the album’s titles or lyrics. It seems that two projects have been created in parallel, without real crossroads – but the result works surprisingly well.

Bring on Milan, Paris and the rest of the world tour!