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U2 guitarist The Edge stomps his foot to the beat of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” during Sunday’s concert at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. U2 played two nights there to sold-out crowds. The North American leg of their 360° Tour kicked off on Sept. 12 in Chicago.
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U2

Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA

September 20, 2009

U2 is about as big as it gets when it comes to rock bands. Since the Zoo TV tour of the early ‘90s, they’ve insisted on including the most prodigious, high-tech, and sometimes outrageous — think mirror ball lemon from PopMart — gadgets on their stage sets.

Though U2’s previous tours, Elevation and Vertigo, abandoned the gigantic television and lighting displays of Zoo TV and PopMart, they still took advantage of new technologies in lighting and sound projection. These were the streamlined, intimate sets scaled down to fit the venue of arenas instead of stadiums, mirroring the progression of technology toward the thinner, simpler, faster paradigm. However, by the end of the Vertigo Tour U2 already felt the itch to return to their colossal ambitions of the past and added stadium dates to their final European leg.

Therefore, it is no surprise that U2’s current 360° tour is stadium only. After kicking off in Barcelona at the end of June and completing their first European leg, U2 is now touring North America. On Sunday, September 20th and Monday the 21st they played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA.

I attended the first show — although “attended” might be too much; let’s just say I showed up. This was not the first U2 show I’ve been to. However, it was definitely the most mismanaged, chaotic venue I’ve ever set foot in.

As an illustration, imagine Gillette Stadium packed with more people than a Patriots game — every seat is filled in addition to a few thousand people on the field. Now, think about all of those people heading to Gillette Stadium in cars because the T station ending at the stadium is only open for Patriots games. If you’re thinking big-ass traffic jam, add a few expletives to that and you might come close. I left Boston at 5 p.m. that evening, expecting the drive to be at most one hour for a 7 p.m. concert, and entered the stadium at 9:30pm, after U2 had already played five songs.

Though it wasn’t the best start of any concert I’ve been to, my rage promptly subsided when I saw the enormous multicolored claw in the middle of the stadium. The 360° stage is just this: four epic phalanges supporting the largest cylindrical, accordion LCD display I’ve ever seen. From my perspective at three rows behind the stage, it appeared as though the band was about to get sucked into the brightly colored tubular mouth of an alien robot spider. It wasn’t entirely the ridiculous spectacle of Zoo TV or PopMart, but somewhere in between U2’s arena and stadium sets. The stage was still cozily wrapped around the crowd in a slightly enlarged version of Vertigo’s circular ramp. However, the massive claw was, simply put, U2 showing off a ridiculous piece of tech.

The music I did hear was on par with what I’d expect from U2. I was delightfully surprised to hear “The Unforgettable Fire” live — a privilege which, previously, I’d been too young to enjoy. The intensity of feeling Adam Clayton’s bass shake the ground beneath my feet, accompanied by a mesmerizing display of light and color from the stage, is now forever etched into my memory. If I hadn’t missed the new songs I’d been dying to hear — “Breathe”, “Magnificent”, and “No Line on the Horizon” — I might have deemed the concert perfect.

Ultimately, the concert felt rushed — a mere 1.5 hours of U2 — and a pain in the ass to get to. The next time they come to Foxborough, I’ll stay home. Though that does not mean I won’t see them again (please, oh, please announce the second North American leg dates) in a venue with better public transportation.