Concert Review: U2 Excites St. Louis, Treats Pittsburgh to a Gem
Your dedicated reviewer continued her U2 trek with shows in St. Louis and Pittsburgh. After 110 shows, the band’s “360 tour” will conclude Saturday, July 30, in Moncton, NB (Canada) at the Magnetic Hill Music Festival. Learn more at u2.com. Read our review for U2 in Chicago here.
I’ve been to a million U2 shows. Ok, more like 23 or so. Still, I’ve gotten to the point where I know what I’m going to get from the band. A light show. A strange stage with moving bits. A plea for world peace and assistance for third-world countries. Anthems for the righteous. Someone pulled up onto the stage to dance or play guitar. Rock star poses. You know, the usual.
If you’re a follower, U2’s show has been particularly predictable during its latest tour, “360,” which has been plugging away since summer of ’09. Oh, sure, there have been variations, especially for each tour leg and in certain cities. But a major tour that holds the world record for having the largest stage structure and has light and stage choreography timed to the millisecond just doesn’t have much wiggle room for spontaneity in the setlist. That isn’t necessarily bad, nor does it mean the tour is boring – far from it, as the spectacle is quite grand! But it does make it difficult to review the show from city to city.
Thus, if you want my thoughts on the basic setlist and general “wow factor” for U2’s St. Louis and Pittsburgh shows, you’ll have to read my review of this year’s concert in Chicago. Seriously, the setlists and theatrics were almost identical. But for those nuggets of awesomesauce, those moments that were unique to each city, read on.
St. Louis (Busch Stadium) – July 17
- The tickets basically were Cardinals baseball tickets that featured an image of Busch Stadium on them, as opposed to the general LiveNation tickets I had in Chicago. Excellent keepsake.
- It was oppressively hot, so Busch Stadium officials and other groups passed out free beverages and ice to the concertgoers in the general admission (GA) line. There also were several large sprinklers.
- U2’s show was just the third in “new” Busch Stadium since it opened in 2006. Only Dave Matthews Band and The Eagles had performed there prior.
- As the opening act, Interpol had a slightly more upbeat set than they had performed in Chicago. I didn’t mention it in my previous review, but I thought Interpol – with band members’ bored looks and monotone songs – was poorly suited for stadium shows, and especially for a high-energy band like U2.
- The sell-out St. Louis audience was amped for U2, jumping and singing throughout the stadium during the band’s performance. Most folks stayed for the entire show instead of rushing off to “beat traffic.” Bravo.
- Five young men were pulled onto the stage because they painted their bodies to spell “u2 360.”
- Bono pulled out a setlist from 1981, when U2 played at Washington University. One by one, he listed the band’s early songs, including “I Will Follow,” which the band performed twice to fill their time commitment.
- U2 kicked “Out of Control” out of the setlist and didn’t perform any kind of rarity, as they did with “One Tree Hill” in Chicago.
- The band was relatively chatter-free all night. When Bono spoke, he spoke with sincerity, but everyone seemed to be dogged by the severe heat.
- Full setlist at setlist.fm.
Pittsburgh (Heinz Field) – July 26
- This show served as U2’s final “360 tour” event in the United States. It happened at the persistent requests of Dan Rooney, a Pittsburgh Steelers chairman emeritus and current U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.
- Heinz Field was stingy with full information for the GA line. Busch Stadium and Soldier Field were much better about linking to information from their websites. Security also didn’t share information until very late in the day.
- Heat wasn’t much of a factor, as the line formed in the shade under Hwy 65 and there were breezes from Pittsburgh’s three rivers.
- Booths of U2 merchandise were set up at several points outside of the stadium. Some end-of-tour and out-of-season merch, like hoodies, were available at a severe discount.
- Enterprising men sold Pittsburgh-specific knockoff tour shirts for $20; unfortunately, they used the logo from the previous tour legs. There was no official Pittsburgh merchandise offered by the band, a disappointment at the end of this tour.
- When I first arrived to the GA line, there were only two portapotties for 400 people. By the time I entered Heinz Field, there were about 8, still not enough for hundreds of people.
Once inside, GA concertgoers could only access portapotties instead of real restrooms. I understand keeping the GA folks separated from the rest of the crowd for security, but it was a terrible thing after being subjected to the few restrooms in the line outside. This is my final restroom update, honest.
- Interpol went back to a snoozer of a setlist. They’re fine in a small venue, but not in a stadium.
- Bono tailored his chatter to Pittsburgh a ton, mentioning “City of Champions,” the Steelers, Dan Rooney, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the actors in town to film The Dark Knight Rises (Oddly, they didn’t mention Batman before “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.”). Drummer Larry Mullen Jr proudly waved a “Terrible Towel” from behind his kit.
- Bono went snippet-happy, throwing all kinds of bits – including a line of “Two Hearts Beat As One” – into most of the setlist. The snippet of “Discotheque” during “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” sounded much richer than it had in Chicago or St. Louis.
- Pittsburgh got a gem of a finish with “Bad.” After the traditional closer of “Moment of Surrender,” Bono spoke individually to The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr and Adam Clayton before declaring that the band would perform “Bad” in honor of Andy Rowen, who grew up in the city. U2 performed a nine-minute version of the song and included bits of Van Morrison’s “In the Garden,” Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and U2’s own “40.” Appreciative, the crowd appropriately sang “How long to sing this song” until the boys left the stage. “Bad” hadn’t been performed in the United States since the “360” tour opened in Chicago in 2009. This, people, is why I see so many damn shows.
- Full setlist at setlist.fm.