22 July, 2009

Spoiler alert.

Cut to a more northern part of Europe...It was my first time seeing them, but Bono seemed in classic form last night in Amsterdam. Much to my pleasure, Snow Patrol had opened the show with a straight-up sweaty rock set (but yes, they did also play the one lovely, yearning song of theirs, which most of us might recognize).

Rock stars--no matter how height- or age-challenged--have perfected that certain animal stride, and stride the performers did, owning their high-tech stage before playing a single note. They owned every audience member as well, but then U2 was after all preaching to the intergenerational converted.

Whether or not Mick Jagger will ever want to hand over the baton, U2 is the band who follows in the Stone's wide swath. With one important difference: Jagger's preening, snapping swagger is sexual in origin, whereas Bono's swagger is all about religion. Attending the concert, you are reminded by a meters high Wizard of Oz image of Archbishop Desmond Tutu that we are all One, that the capacity for rebirth and world-rescuing lies within us all. This can make for heady stuff when combined with a powerful light show, hypnotic anthems and a sea of synchronized, waving arms. Cue ode to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese perennial political prisoner, during which volunteers from the audience file across the circular walks that orbit the central stage, holding masks of her telegenic, radiant face before their own. We are all one.

The shimmering old numbers were played, their pealing, searing sounds radiating outward and echoed by the thousands and thousands who had long ago memorized every inflection. Added to all this was a startling, breath-taking electronic screen in the round that lowered and expanded cone-like over the smoke and lights of the laboring musicians. Strike a pose in a laser-beam studded jacket, and redeem the world (and yourself) while you're at it.

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