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Review: U2 at Cowboys Stadium

by Stephen Becker 13 Oct 2009 1:17 AM

U2 landed its massive spaceship/stage comfortably inside the even more massive Cowboys Stadium on Monday night for a show that will be remembered as much for its sights as for its sounds.  First, the sights. Past tours have featured everything from a giant lemon (Popmart) to a curtain of beaded lights that functioned as a […]


U2 landed its massive spaceship/stage comfortably inside the even more massive Cowboys Stadium on Monday night for a show that will be remembered as much for its sights as for its sounds.  First, the sights.

Past tours have featured everything from a giant lemon (Popmart) to a curtain of beaded lights that functioned as a video screen (Vertigo). The talk of the current 360 Tour has been the four-pronged stage setup that looks like one of Gaudi’s rejected designs for the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. But the truly memorable set piece was the round center video screen that could not only tilt on its axis but also stretch out, Slinky style, to three times its original height. Very cool.

A presence this big requires a massive sound behind it, and for the bulk of the show, that’s what the crowd got. Stadium-filling rockers “Elevation,” “Vertigo” and especially the newish “Get On Your Boots” used the loud-soft-loud dynamic to maximum effect. And when Bono had an opportunity to sustain a note, as in the chorus of “Breathe,” his urgent tenor filled the house.

That fullness and strength of voice is a quality that has eluded the singer at times on the last two tours. The difference between then and now can likely be chalked up to reduced stress on the ol’ vocal chords because of a lighter schedule. Playing stadiums allows for one concert per city in most cases instead of three and sometimes four arena shows in a week. The short breaks between shows (the last one before Monday was a gig in Tampa last Friday) also seems to be allowing the band to recharge its batteries. The night ended with “Moment of Surrender” off No Line on the Horizon, and when the foursome gathered center stage to take their bows, there was a tangible sense that Bono at least wished they could squeeze in one more number.

But even he couldn’t make that happen. When you have an operation this large and orchestrated, you’ve got to stick with the game plan. Of the five U2 shows I’ve seen, this was by far the most well-rehearsed. But polish can be the enemy of spontaneity, and if there was a downside to the presentation, it’s that it felt almost too precise. The last couple of trips through North Texas, the audience got what felt like pretty off-the-cuff renditions of “In God’s Country” and “Desire” (which was so of the moment that Bono had to ask a stagehand to fetch him a harmonica). On Monday, everyone knew his cue and where to be at the assigned time.

So, yes, that meant that some of those little moments that can happen in a big rock show didn’t. But they were more than made up for by an evening that blended spectacular visuals with fierce, full-on rock ‘n’ roll.

Check back in later Tuesday for a few more observations from the night, including a few out of left field local references made by the night’s host.

  • Jennifer

    I thought last night was great, but I preferred their last (arena) tour. That giant stadium clearly wasn’t built for concerts, and I feel bad for those who were in the upper decks, with the horrible sound quality.

  • Tony

    I surprised that no one has mentioned the poor sound quality, especially in the upper levels. The stage show and lighting were amazing but could not overcome the sound . This is not the first complaint of poor sound at this venue. George Strait also had problems.

  • AnnElise

    I wasted money on the only tickets I could afford to buy in section 444. The only thing we could hear was bass thumping, and it was so loud, it was painful. I love U2 dearly, but it was so miserable, we left after the 4th song. The U2 “sound guys” obviously did not do a sound check from the “crow’s nest” area of the stadium. “They” shouldn’t even sell tickets at the 400 level for concerts, much less have concerts at the New Cowboys Stadium, which obviously was not designed for musical enjoyment. It was so bad that it made the U2 concert I saw at Texas Stadium seem like it was at Carnegie Hall.

  • This was my first time seeing them in a stadium setup. I was in section 344 and thought the sound was decent. The stage was impressive, especially the moving bridges. Loved how the screen extended during Unforgettable Fire.

    I agree the spectacle impeded the spontaneity a bit. Elevation is still my favorite tour, though I imagine I’m biased because I got into the heart/inner circle of the stage twice on that tour. Every other spot in the venue is a bit of a letdown after that.

  • Ana

    The show was phenomenal! The set list was great, and the video screen, stage lighting and other effects were amazing! Some might complain about the lack of “those little moments that can happen” in a poorly rehearsed show, but we appreciated the quality of performance that they put on last night. The only downside was the seemingly lack of enthusiasm of other people in our section – everyone was quietly sitting and tapping their toes like they were watching TV! I know I can’t compare the upper deck with the ground level, but that atmosphere was disappointing, though not the bands fault.
    Just to respond to some of the comments about sound quality – we were in section 425, which is upper deck but was in front of the stage, and the sound was great – we could discern every word and the bass was not overwhelming. Perhaps the sound quality was not as good on the sides in the upper level. Its kind of hard to please everyone in a stadium that size, but we felt our money was well spent.

  • Tracy

    I agree on the sound issue. We were in section 415; and after the fourth number, we opted to stand on the concourse level for the remainder of the show. A little tough on the feet but a lot better on the ears.

    I will never again purchase tickets in the upper seats at Cowboys Stadium — not worth it!

  • Tracy C

    I’m with Tracy, AnnElise, and Tony! We were in section 440 and the sound was the worst I have ever experienced at a concert! The bass and drums were so loud they were almost painful, yet the melodies and vocals could barely be heard and certainly couldn’t be understood. I too feel that those seats shouldn’t even be sold or should be sold at a greatly reduced price and only after a disclaimer about lack of visibility and poor sound quality. We too left our seats after a couple of U2 numbers and stood for the rest of the evening on one of the party decks. Ridiculous!

    By the way, we are HUGE U2 fans and still managed to enjoy the concert from that vantage point, but felt the whole thing was very disappointing! Will never attend another concert there again.

  • Naomi

    My seats were in Section 446 and I chose to leave before Muse even completed their opening act. The sound was horrendous!!! The parking debacle just to get to the stadium was insulting enough. I wasn’t willing to have U2’s music slaughtered by that laME excuse for acoustics!! May I never have to don the doors of that ridiculous monstrosity ever again!

  • Creole Nicole

    I loved the concert. I was in the 200 row by the stage, first row, so I had it pretty good. It’s not entirely the bands fault. They booked the venue before the stadium was completed, so they didn’t know the acoustics would be terrible. I didn’t deal with parking. I booked a hotel near by and stayed the night. That’s what I usually do, so I don’t have to deal with that. I was surprised that there were seats on the 100 level that were empty-entire sections. Some people from the party levels took those seats, some didn’t. It’s always a gamble with stadium concerts, but I was grateful and excited to finally experience U2 live.

  • Oliver

    yeah we were in section 413 and agreed the sound was a show killer. We would have moved but we thought the whole stadium was like that. Hind sight is 20/20. Very disappointed with Texas Stadium since they knew the sound in these sections were crap after the previous concerts but failed to price the tickets accordingly for this concert. Greed.