Say what you will about Bono—the man knows how to make a statement like no one else. Late in the band’s set last night at a nearly full FedEx Field, he pulled a flag-bearing U2 fan clad in a red turban onstage to help him sing “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” After getting his chance to belt the song, the fan stepped back behind Bono and held his US flag above his head with both hands, letting it waft in the wind. The camera angle shown on the screen—with Bono singing and the fan behind him—was striking, to say the least, and just a drop in the bucket at what was at times an overtly political concert. But hey, what did you expect from a U2 show?
Bono knows better than to take sides, especially in the nation’s capital, so he spent the night being overtly nonpartisan. Nancy Pelosi got not one but two shout-outs while Bono also big-upped Eunice Shriver, Ted Kennedy, Pat Leahy (“the John Wayne of . . .”), Tom Daschle, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and a host of other Beltway superstars who have supported Bono on the issues he lobbies for, such as debt relief and AIDS drugs.
As for the music, there was plenty of it—22 songs, pulled from eight of the group’s albums. Knowing that stadium shows are for playing top hits, most of the seemingly hookless songs from their latest album, No Line on the Horizon, were frontloaded in the set, leaving classics such as “One,” “With or Without You,” “Where the Streets Have No Name,” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” for the end of the night. Standout tracks included “New Year’s Day,” which is more than 25 years old but sounded brand new. Bono sang his lines with gusto while the Edge attacked his guitar parts in between playing the song’s piano hook. More recent hits such as “Vertigo,” “Walk On,” and “The City of Blinding Lights” gave the crowd a chance to sing along and make some noise.
The only glaring missteps of the night were “Your Blue Room,” a song from the U2/Brian Eno side project Passengers—which signaled to everyone it was time for a bathroom break—and a strange dance remix of “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” that seemed to confuse the crowd more than energize it.
The opening act, Muse, did all it could to steal the show before U2 took the stage, tearing through a taught seven-song set that showcased its slinky, sexy glam-rock. Its new single, “The Uprising,” sounded right at home next to the band’s other hits such as “Knights of Cydonia” and “Supermassive Black Hole.” Muse has sold out London’s Wembley Stadium on its own, so it’s doubtful it was nervous about opening the show. It’s not every day you get to see a bona-fide stadium band opening for another stadium band. Muse undoubtedly left the arena with a gaggle of new fans.